(Portland, OR) — After hitting their first 10 outside shots of the game, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ shooting disappeared for the rest of the night as they scored a mere 48 points in the final three quarters to drop a 101-82 decision to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center on Tuesday night.
Cleveland scored 34 points and shot 13 of 21 from the field in that opening quarter. That would be the highlight of the night for head coach David Blatt’s squad, who then would make only 18 of their last 64 field goal attempts (28 percent) to fall to 1-2 on the season, while Portland evened their record at 2-2 for the campaign.
Both LeBron James and Kevin Love connected on their first three shots, each of them hitting on a pair of threes, with James finishing the quarter with nine points. However, he would only collect one additional basket for the night out of nine attempts, though Love picked up his third double-double in as many games with a team-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite James’ struggles, Blatt said, “I don’t hold him responsible. We have to help him get looks,” and added, “We got beat a lot on one-on-one and loose balls around the basket. There wasn’t any real effort around the rim.”
James spoke about the learning process involved in becoming the team everyone expected when the team came to training camp. “A lot of bad habits have been built up over the last few years,” after also saying, “We have to be a team. We have to be unselfish.”
When asked if the challenge of molding the team into a championship caliber squad was worse than he thought, James said, “It’s the challenge I thought. It’s like building a car from scratch.”
Love also gave his thoughts on what it will take to get into a groove saying, “On defense, we need to be more locked in. We have to get into some rhythm,” before adding, “We hope it will be sooner than later.”
The starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters also had a rough evening, managing to combine hitting just six of 28 shots from the field. Irving especially had a brutal night with just three baskets in 17 attempts.
During the first half, a fast-paced opening quarter saw both teams trade a number of early leads, with no margin wider than three points on either side during the first six minutes.
James hit a three on a 30-foot launch to beat the shot clock to make the score 27-20 in favor of the Cavaliers with 4:55 to go in the quarter. However, Portland battled back, running off nine straight points to take a two-point lead.
In the quarter’s final minute, the Cavs tallied the final four points, the first coming on a Love jumper. Matthew Dellavedova then closed out the quarter on a teardrop layup with just a tenth of a second remaining to give the Cavaliers a 34-31 lead.
In contrast, quarter number two saw neither team score for the first two and a half minutes, and Cleveland being blanked for two minutes after that. The cold spell finally ended when veteran Shawn Marion drilled a three-pointer to make it 37-35 in favor of the Cavs.
James then played a key role in the team’s next two baskets by hitting a turnaround jumper, then literally punching the ball to Marion, who converted a layup to give Cleveland a 41-37 lead.
The Cavaliers would make it 44-39 on a Love three-point play, but the Trail Blazers then put together an 11-2 run to make it 50-46 with 2:10 left before intermission. Portland would end up heading to the locker room with a 55-50 advantage.
Another slow start after the break resulted in the Cavs watching Portland outscore them 16-9 for a 69-57 advantage. The Trail Blazers then took another 12-point lead before Cleveland began to battle back.
Tristan Thompson’s second dunk in a little more than two minutes chopped the deficit to just six at 74-68 with 1:57 left in the quarter. The Cavaliers then had an opportunity to slice the spread to four on yet another Thompson dunk attempt. However, the effort was swatted away, with the Trail Blazers then taking control and eventually putting the game away by outscoring Cleveland 27-14 the rest of the way.
Blatt summed up the game by saying, “I knew coming out here it would be a tough game. He then added, “I don’t think we brought intensity or any kind of mindset to play defense tonight.”
The Cavs now head to Salt Lake City for a matchup tomorrow night against the Utah Jazz. Tipoff is set for just after 9 p.m. Eastern.