Two teams looking to emerge from downward slides square off Friday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Portland Trail Blazers.
Cleveland has dropped four of its last five games as it opens a six-game road trip, while the Trail Blazers have dropped five of six games and 15 of their past 19.
The Cavaliers also traditionally have trouble in Portland, losing in seven consecutive visits.
The Trail Blazers continue to be without their starting backcourt in Damian Lillard (abdomen) and CJ McCollum (lung). But the absences are giving fourth-year pro Anfernee Simons a chance to shine.
Simons scored 28 points and made five 3-pointers during Wednesday’s 115-109 home loss to the Miami Heat. That followed up his career-best 43-point performance in Monday’s 136-131 home win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Simons was 13-of-21 shooting against the Hawks, made 9 of 16 from behind the arc and was 8 of 8 from the line. The nine 3-pointers matched his career best.
“I was kind of trying to make the right plays at certain moments and I was trying to figure out my way to be aggressive at a certain time,” said Simons, who has been elevated to the starting lineup. “And then in the second half they kind of started playing normal, not being up at the beginning of the third quarter and that’s when I knew it was my time to start being aggressive. That’s when I kind of got hot.”
Against the Heat, Simons helped Portland recover from a 19-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but Miami made more plays down the stretch.
“Just a missed opportunity,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “I thought we played hard as heck. There’s always a moment of truth in the game. We knew that this team is a really good offensive rebounding team, and they just keep coming. We talked about it and sometimes until it actually happens you don’t really understand it.”
The Cavaliers are looking to sweep the regular-season series with Portland. Cleveland recorded a 107-104 home win on Nov. 3 behind Jarrett Allen’s 24 points and 17 rebounds.
But now the Cavaliers are struggling heading into their longest trip of the season. The Golden State Warriors are the second game on the excursion and a visit to the Utah Jazz is ahead.
Cleveland was outplayed down the stretch Tuesday, falling 110-106 to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.
“We’re learning that the fourth quarters are what’s important,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Every shot, every pass, every possession, every box out, every rotation means everything. Give Memphis credit for hitting the shots at the end.”
Standout guard Darius Garland contributed 27 points and 10 assists after missing the previous four games while in the COVID-19 protocol. Allen added 22 points and 12 rebounds. Garland was thrilled to be back on the floor with Allen.
“It was super fun, but it’s been fun all year,” Garland said of his teammate. “He sets really good screens for me, and I try to reward him. So, it’s fun just getting a lot of lobs and he’s just laughing and smiling. It makes the game a lot of fun.”
Recently acquired point guard Rajon Rondo is out of COVID-19 protocol and is listed as probable in advance of what would be his Cleveland debut.
–Field Level Media