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(Page 1 of 2) | Single Page View
Cavs' victory short on style

Defense prevails as both teams provide preview for postseason

By Brian Windhorst
Beacon Journal sportswriter

CLEVELAND: Aesthetically, there wasn't much to like about the game the Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers slugged out with each other on Monday night.

Yet it was just the kind of game the Cavs are supposedly built to win, a low-scoring, defense-based affair often seen in the postseason. Which is why the Cavs' 88-80 victory, their fifth in the past six games, uplifted coach Mike Brown.

After going through a spell of overall poor team defense when LeBron James seemed to aim to outscore the opposition by himself over the last three games, the Cavs were much more in character in this one.

James scored the fewest points in 22 games but his all-around effort was exemplary as he put up his seventh triple-double of the season and the team defense was more in line with the coach's expectations.

''This has to be up there as one of the top performances defensively since we made the trade,'' said Brown, whose team is 7-3 since the 11-player trade and, at 37-27, is 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Cavs allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot just 39 percent for the game and score just 37 points in the second half.

They did it without their top two big men as Zydrunas Ilgauskas missed his fifth consecu
tive game with a bad back and Ben Wallace had to shut it down at halftime after a miserable first half in which he was plagued with back spasms.

But the Cavs responded with strong overall team defense, especially on Blazers' star Brandon Roy and from backup big men Anderson Varejao and Joe Smith.

Roy went just 5-of-13 from the field facing tough defense from Devin Brown and James.

LaMarcus Aldridge had just eight points in the second half after putting up 17 in the first against a gimpy Wallace. In the fourth, the Cavs took Aldridge out of the offense for the most part with double teams.

''I just wanted to make it tough on (Roy) and try to deny him,'' said Devin Brown, who handled Roy for much of the night. ''When he played in Portland he got good post position on me a few times, so I wanted to fight him.''

James had ''just'' 24 points, largely due to the way the Blazers (33-31) were playing him. One of the better defensive teams in the league, the Blazers rotated two and sometimes three defenders to James when he came off screens or stepped inside the 3-point line.

The Blazers were burned by James in January in Portland, especially down the stretch and they weren't going to let it happen this time.

Averaging 41 points per game over his last four games, he cooled by going just 7-of-18 from the floor.

 

Yet he still had nine points in the fourth, including a big 3-pointer with four minutes left that gave the Cavs crucial separation, but it was his all-around game that truly was on display.

He finished with 10 rebounds, 11 assists and two blocks. He had four rebounds, three assists and a block in the fourth, undercutting the Blazers' game plan to beat him.

''I didn't feel like I played particularly well, but we got the win,'' James said. ''If you didn't play well and you have a triple-double, then something is wrong. I found other ways to control the game in the fourth quarter.''

Smith and Varejao both played key supporting roles.

Smith had 18 points, his most as a Cav, off the bench in place of Wallace.

Varejao continued to show progress in coming back from his ankle injury, tying his season high with 16 points to go with nine rebounds. The two combined for 10 points in the fourth quarter.

''It's a blessing to be able to have quality bigs like we do,'' Mike Brown said. ''When one goes down we've got somebody to step up.''

 


Brian Windhorst can be reached at bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/cavs/.

 

CLEVELAND: Aesthetically, there wasn't much to like about the game the Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers slugged out with each other on Monday night.

Yet it was just the kind of game the Cavs are supposedly built to win, a low-scoring, defense-based affair often seen in the postseason. Which is why the Cavs' 88-80 victory, their fifth in the past six games, uplifted coach Mike Brown.

After going through a spell of overall poor team defense when LeBron James seemed to aim to outscore the opposition by himself over the last three games, the Cavs were much more in character in this one.

James scored the fewest points in 22 games but his all-around effort was exemplary as he put up his seventh triple-double of the season and the team defense was more in line with the coach's expectations.

''This has to be up there as one of the top performances defensively since we made the trade,'' said Brown, whose team is 7-3 since the 11-player trade and, at 37-27, is 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Cavs allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot just 39 percent for the game and score just 37 points in the second half.

They did it without their top two big men as Zydrunas Ilgauskas missed his fifth consecu
tive game with a bad back and Ben Wallace had to shut it down at halftime after a miserable first half in which he was plagued with back spasms.

But the Cavs responded with strong overall team defense, especially on Blazers' star Brandon Roy and from backup big men Anderson Varejao and Joe Smith.

Roy went just 5-of-13 from the field facing tough defense from Devin Brown and James.

LaMarcus Aldridge had just eight points in the second half after putting up 17 in the first against a gimpy Wallace. In the fourth, the Cavs took Aldridge out of the offense for the most part with double teams.

''I just wanted to make it tough on (Roy) and try to deny him,'' said Devin Brown, who handled Roy for much of the night. ''When he played in Portland he got good post position on me a few times, so I wanted to fight him.''

James had ''just'' 24 points, largely due to the way the Blazers (33-31) were playing him. One of the better defensive teams in the league, the Blazers rotated two and sometimes three defenders to James when he came off screens or stepped inside the 3-point line.

The Blazers were burned by James in January in Portland, especially down the stretch and they weren't going to let it happen this time.

Averaging 41 points per game over his last four games, he cooled by going just 7-of-18 from the floor.

 



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Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James drives to the hoop past Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge during first quarter action at Quicken Loans Arena on Monday, March 10, 2008, in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavs won the game 88-80. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)




 

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