The Big Three takes their show to the Northwest, as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers arrive in Oregon to play the Portland Trail Blazers, a team with plenty of expectations, and hopes of finding a way to get more from their bench.
Their starting lineup? Just fine. They did lose to the Warriors at home on their last outing, but there’s plenty of promise and optimism in Portland, especially if Damian Lillard’s injury doesn’t turn out to be too serious. The 1-2 Blazers are expecting more from their star point guard, averaging just 13.7 points per game so far and the same goes for Nicolas Batum, struggling with his shot early on this season, hitting just 34.5% of his field goal attempts.
After the Cavaliers were stunned by the Knicks at home to open the season, they looked a lot more serious about winning when visiting their number one threat in the East, the Chicago Bulls. James scored 36 points and got a lot of help from Kyrie Irving with 23 and also Tristan Thompson, coming off the bench and scoring 16, most importantly grabbing 12 offensive rebounds.
Kevin Love is still looking for his 3-point shot to solidify, going 1-of-6 in the win over the Bulls. So far David Blatt doesn’t mind seeing his players go ballistic from beyond the arc, but that could turn into a dangerous strategy against the Blazers who stretch the floor very well thanks to Lillard (once he starts shooting well again) and especially Wesley Matthews, their best player up to this point this season.
The Cavaliers are unstoppable if guys like Waiters and Thompson get more involved. The Blazers aren’t the best of defensive teams the West has to offer, but focusing on known threats is easier than always being kept guessing. It’ll be interesting to see the matchup between LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, although Love is no longer a number one option on offense. Irving and Lillard will have an equally explosive collision (potentially). Nicolas Batum can’t match James when it comes to scoring, but his defense can certainly try to keep the ball out of his hands.
The kind of games that feel like more than just an early, sluggish and sleepy regular season meeting. The Cavaliers don’t want a slow start to open up an opportunity for the media to bash them. The same goes for the Blazers, who might start thinking about what’s going on if they do fall to 1-3.