Portland started the game off well. They went in to LaMarcus Aldridge and he responded, scoring seemingly at will. But then something happened; they forgot he was having a really, really good night and elected to look for offense elsewhere.
Or, more accurately, they heaved up wild shots, gave the rebound to the Cavaliers
and let them look for offense.
The formula the Blazers selected for the night seemed pretty clear; figure out who is scoring for you and make sure they don't get the ball. Meanwhile, double team LeBron James and let the other Cavaliers take open shots from wherever they want. If they should miss, don't bother getting the rebound, you will get the ball back soon enough.
That is not entirely fair; two Blazers tried to rebound. Joel Przybilla snagged 15 rebounds in 21 minutes and Greg Oden added 8 in 25 minutes. The other seven Blazers who played combined for a whopping 12 rebounds.
Meanwhile, since they weren't going to rebound, defend the three point line (Cleveland went 11-19 from three point range), make free throws (under 60% until late in the third quarter), make lay-ins, or open jumpers, the Blazers looked for something truly epic to demonstrate how they were playing. The answer is 15-14.
15 would be the number of assists the Portland Trailblazers had for the night. 14 would be the number James had to go with his 34 points. With the Blazers double or triple teaming him at times, James took advantage of the rules and passed the ball to open team mates.
Portland, however, found that cheesy and elected to hold the ball, try to create their own shot, and not use their teammates as outlets. Why pass when you can toss up a brick yourself?
The results were predictable. Cleveland controlled almost the entire game. Portland kept it close, but any time they got to close the Cavaliers would go on a run of anywhere from five to 10 points and regain control.
There were some bright spots, as usual. Nicolas Batum continued his development as defensive stopper. True, James had 34 points but he shot just 14-30 and even many of those 14 makes were just pure, unadulterated talent.
Again and again Batum, Brandon Roy or Travis Outlaw would stick right with James, force him into a tough shot and watch the ball bottom out in the net. When great players make plays like that, sometimes there is nothing you can do. This is particularly true when they get help as James did from Mo Williams, who dropped in 33 points of his own.
Batum also looked for his shot a little more. This did open the offense a bit and gave the Blazers even more open looks. Unfortunately, they would not take advantage of those looks on this night. This was a night when Steve Blake and Martell Webster were sorely missed for their shot making abilities.
Another bright spot was Greg Oden. His statistics hardly overwhelm. He had just 10 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. But he was 3-4 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line. Additionally, his points came almost exclusively off offensive rebounds and put-backs with the exception of I believe one play the Blazers posted him up on. Otherwise, it was just Oden working to get the rebound and put it back in.
As an aside, I would be interested to see the officiating marks from this game. This appeared to be an exceptionally poorly officiated game. For example, at one point Mo Williams grabbed a rebound. Jerryd Bayless was a couple steps behind him, immobile. Williams stumbled a bit, fell backwards into Bayless...who still was not moving...and Bayless drew a foul.
This, meanwhile, was NOT considered a foul on Anderson Varejao.
Those are just a couple of examples. Cleveland plays a very, very aggressive brand of defense with a lot of clutching, grabbing, shoving, and bodying up on people.
The Blazers, on the other hand, often fear to touch the opponent. As a result, they get called for a lot of touch fouls.
As a result, the calls reflect these respective methods. Credit the Cavaliers for adjusting to the officiating while the Blazers got involved with the officials. I do not believe the calls changed the outcome; the Cavaliers were the better team on this night beginning to end. But there were a lot of calls that had some head-scratching going on. Well, head-scratching and crowd profanities...
Be that as it may, it was entertaining to watch a great player put on a very good performance. I wish it had been Roy, but since James comes to town just once a year until the Blazers meet the Cavaliers in the Finals next year, well done King James. You deserved this one. 104-98 was a sad score, though. Just two more Blazer points would have "earned"us a Chalupa.