Trail Blazers vs Bulls Monday, 02/07/11 AT 07:00PM

Three Is the Key As Portland Knocks Off Cleveland

02/05/11
  1. Written by: Grant Lucas  / avg. rating: 5.0

    Open the record books, reach for the Wite-Out and rewrite the NBA's single-season losing streak. With a trio of players scoring at least 20 points, the Portland Trail Blazers (27-24) fended off a pesky Cleveland Cavaliers (8-50) team for a 111-105 victory and sending Cleveland to its record-breaking 24th consecutive defeat.

    In a game that featured both teams shooting better than 50 percent from the field, the Portland Trail Blazers posted a season-high 12 three-pointers on the night on just 19 attempts, finishing with an accuracy of nearly 54 percent from the field to notch the win and bring a seven-game losing streak at Quicken Loans Arena to a halt.

    "It's always a tough game in a situation like that," Head Coach Nate McMillan said. "Cleveland plays hard and in the first half, they shot the ball extremely well... We had to make some adjustments in the second half and we did a better job of adjusting. But it's good to see the ball go in the basket for us. I think players always play better and get excited on the defensive end of the floor when the shot is falling."

    Portland attained its largest lead of the night at 105-95 thanks to Andre Miller's first bucket of the night that capped an 15-4 run, but Anthony Parker drilled a three with less than four minutes to go.

    The Cavaliers were relentless, with Antawn Jamison drawing a foul and hitting the shot that, along with the plus-one free throw, brought Cleveland to within four points at 107-103. Several possessions later, Ramon Sessions laid up a shot that was blocked, but called goaltending, as the Cavaliers cut the lead to two points with a little more than a minute left in the game.

    To respond, Miller sank a fallaway jumper for Portland to maintain a four-point edge. Cleveland quickly ran down the floor, and after the ball was fumbled around, Sessions had a close look to make it a one possession game, but he missed, and the rebound went to Aldridge.

    Following a timeout, Cleveland had multiple opportunities to narrow the gap, but the Cavaliers could not find the bottom of the net, missing two-straight shots before Nicolas Batum hauled in the rebound with less than six seconds to go. Rudy Fernandez was then sent to the line, where he hit a pair of free throws to seal the win.

    Wesley Matthews paced the Trail Blazers with 31 points, while Batum tallied 21 points and seven rebounds. The two combined for a 10-13 mark from three-point range, with Batum matching a career high of five three-balls. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 20 points and 10 boards, Miller added 7 points and 13 assists and Fernandez contributed 17 points off the bench.

    "We were just shooting the ball when we were open," Matthews said. "They (Cavaliers) were doubling on (Aldridge) in the post and we just had to move. We created space and we were sharing the ball and we were getting rhythm shots."

    Batum said Portland knew the Cavaliers would put up a fight.

    "In the last couple of games they lost, I watched the Denver game and it was pretty close and last night, they had the lead in the third quarter," he said. "We knew they were going to play hard tonight, that's what they did, and it was pretty scary... But at the end of the game, we just tried to play basketball to win the game. We needed this game."

    Jamison led the way for the Cavaliers with 17 points, while Sessions chipped in with 15 points and seven assists, but Cleveland missed five of its final six shots down the stretch and recorded just three points in the final three minutes en route to the record-breaking loss.

    "Anytime you start losing close games, it's always a little mental," Cleveland Head Coach Byron Scott said. "Mentally, it starts to wear on you a little bit until you can get over the hump. I think the biggest thing for us is to continue to press like we have been pressing. Our guys are competing every single game and that's what we have to continue to do until we can get over that hump."

    Scott said he hopes his players realize that they are close to bouncing back, that as long as they continue to play as hard as they've been playing, the wins will soon come.

    "As far as the record, I couldn't care less about the record," Scott said. "I care about our guys progressing and getting better as basketball players and as a basketball team. That is my biggest focus right now and hopefully they feel the same way."

    Cleveland hit three of its first four shots to jump out to a four-point lead, but Portland responded, with Matthews slashing through the lane for the deuce, followed by a putback dunk by Batum to put the Trail Blazers ahead 11-8.

    Matthews started hot for the Trail Blazers, sinking his first three shots, including a 2-for-2 mark from three-point range midway through the opening period to aid Portland to a 17-10 advantage and capping a 12-2 run.

    Portland led by as many as seven, but Cleveland trimmed the deficit to three at 23-20 heading into the second.

    Matthews notched 10 points in the quarter, while Aldridge added six to go along with six boards. For Cleveland, it was Eyenga who kept the game close with eight points in the period, as the Cavaliers shot 45 percent from the field, compared to Portland's 43 percent.

    Fernandez hit a three-ball to extend Portland's lead to six points, but Cleveland struck back with an eight-point rally to retake the lead with a trey by Gibson. The run was extended to 10-0 with a pair of free throws by Harris.

    Manny Harris and Jamario Moon took over Eyenga's role in the second quarter, providing a spark off the Cleveland bench with a combined 15 points in the period, as the Cavaliers made 14 of their 22 attempts in the frame and 6-for-7 from beyond the arc.

    Moon canned back-to-back three-pointers to build a 40-35 advantage with just more than six minutes to go in the half. Portland, however, ran off eight-straight points, polished off with consecutive three's to regain control with less than three minutes remaining in the period at 48-46.

    After exchanging buckets with Cleveland and leading 53-52, Miller found Aldridge for an alley-oop layup to grab a three-point edge with less than a minute to go. The Cavaliers took advantage of a two-for-one situation, notching successive field goals to close the quarter and take a 57-55 into the locker room.

    Portland matched it's opponent's efficiency, shooting 55 percent from the floor in the first half, led by Matthews' 17 points and Aldridge's 12 points and six boards. Behind a 3-for-4 half by Matthews from long range, the Trail Blazers hit six treys on nine attempts, but late turnovers in the second allowed Cleveland to take a lead into the half.

    Batum and Matthews teamed up for three-straight three-balls, putting Portland ahead 64-62. Cleveland refused to back down, posting seven consecutive points and earning a three-point edge thanks to a Hickson slam midway through the period.

    The Cavaliers clinged to one-point lead before Jamison nailed a jumper to go up three, but Batum canned his fifth three-pointer of the night to even things up. Then, in transition, Matthews spotted up from deep and pocketed his fifth three to gain a 76-73 edge.

    In the fourth, Portland added onto it with four-straight points to start the quarter, increasing the margin to 90-83.

    Once again, the Cavaliers bounced back, decreasing a seven-point deficit to just one point thanks to a three-point play by Ryan Hollins. A set of free throws by Harris gave Cleveland a brief lead before Fernandez hit a tough shot on the other end.

    After Moon tied the game up with a three-point play on a follow-up dunk, Matthews drove baseline and laid it in for a two-point edge with around seven minutes left in the game. Soon after, Fernandez buried a three-pointer to extend the Trail Blazers' lead to seven points and forcing Scott to call a timeout.

    It looked as though Portland would run away with the game, but the Cavaliers battled back to a 107-105 deficit. The Cavaliers, however, wouldn't gain any more ground. Miller hit a fallaway jumper and Fernandez registered a pair of free throws to earn the win.

    "We didn't want to put any added pressure on ourselves," McMillan said of facing a Cavalier squad with this type of losing streak. "It was more than just being the team that lost to Cleveland first. We dropped two games on this road trip. We knew we needed to play better and that we could play better. I thought we did that, that we were going to have to come out here and play the game."

    The Trail Blazers return to the Rose City for a Monday night matchup against the Chicago Bulls (34-14) before hitting the road again for another three-game swing.

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