Game Details: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH. 4:30 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′9″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Joel Przybilla (#10, 7′1″, Minnesota)
Projected Cleveland Starting Lineup: PG Ramon Sessions (#3, 6’3″, Nevada), SG Daniel Gibson (#1, 6’2″, Texas), SF Christian Eyenga (#8, 6’5″, Congo), PF Antawn Jamison (#4, 6’9″, North Carolina), C J.J. Hickson (#21, 6’9″, North Carolina State)
Under normal circumstances, it couldn’t get much worse than last night, when the Blazers pulled a collective DNP-CD and got blown out by the middling Indiana Pacers. The thing is, though, it could get much, much worse tonight. The Cleveland Cavaliers tied an NBA record last night in Memphis, losing their 23rd game in a row. The Blazers have the opportunity to make make history in the worst way possible for the most helpless franchise in the league, or get a slew of national media attention for themselves in even more humiliating fashion.
Holly MacKenzie had a great quote the other night from Raptors center Amir Johnson. Johnson talked about going out to eat with his teammates before the Raps played (and beat) the Cavs, and the TV at their restaurant was showing a SportsCenter montage of all the Cavs’ wins this season. Johnson said his teammates were turning to each other saying, “Yo, we can’t be on that.” That about sums it up. The Blazers are struggling as it is…being one of nine teams to lose to this team isn’t any way to turn it around.
Normally, this is where I’d go into the matchups, but there’s no point. As long as the Blazers play competently tonight, they should be able to win. Unfortunately, if last night is any indication, that’s not a guarantee. But the Cavs are bad. Historically bad. Everyone knew they would take a huge hit following the departure of the best player in the league, but I was one of the contingent of fans who would tell anybody who would listen that they wouldn’t be as bad as people thought, and maybe they’d be able to get to 39 wins and compete for the 8th seed. Well, um, LOL.
Watching the Cavs this year, it’s hard to be too mad at LeBron James for leaving. Given the choice between playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh or playing with Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison, there isn’t a single person among us who would pick the latter option. James’ departure has truly exposed how much of a one-man team his Cavs were, and beyond that, their best player (and one-time Blazers trade target), Anderson Varejao, is out for the season.
I feel bad even writing this stuff. One of my best friends is a lifelong Cavs season-ticket holder, dating back to the pre-LeBron dog days. I used to love talking hoops with him, when his Cavs were perennial title favorites and my Blazers were the trendy up-and-comers. Now, neither of those things are true, and the Cavs are the one team that makes me second-guess myself when I lament the Blazers’ injury woes. A win tonight for Portland would just make this easier for everybody.