Road Takes: Lillard gets parting shot in showdown against Kyrie Irving
He did it again.
Damian Lillard, a little over 24 hours after hitting a game-winner in overtime to beat Detroit, hit a game-winning three to give the Blazers a 119-116 win in Cleveland.
In the first quarter Kyrie Irving went right at Lillard and got a basket and a foul. Lillard answered right back with an and-1 of his own on the next possession and the battle was on.
Lillard was aggressive in every way. He grabbed five rebounds in the first quarter to go along with eight points and Irving also had a good start to the game with eight points and five assists.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez were doing work on the glass but Lopez was troubled by fouls early in the game and that problem would persist throughout. Aldridge had a fantastic game with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
But for the whole night, offense wasn’t the problem.
Portland’s defense had one of, if not their worst showing of the season tonight in Cleveland. The Cavs came into the game with an offense that ranked 27th in the league in points per 100 possessions and Portland had no answer for the Cavs attack.
Dion Waiters and the Cavs bench in particular gave Portland lots of trouble. Waiters dropped 25 points off the bench and Anderson Varejao had a productive nine rebounds and five points as well.
The Blazers had solid contributions from everyone but Lillard was everywhere, playing perhaps the most complete game of his career. He had a great start to the second half and he continued getting rebounds and setting up his teammates.
Andrew Bynum had a solid game for the Cavs as well with 13 points and nine rebounds but he wasn’t as dominant in the second half.
The Blazers had another excellent third quarter to help them take a four point lead into the fourth quarter but Waiters and the bench unit got off to a scorching start to get the Cavs the lead once again.
The Blazers turned things around in the fourth quarter with Lillard leading the way, hitting a couple threes including this one from very deep off a screen.
Joel Freeland was called upon to play minutes down the stretch with Robin Lopez hampered by foul trouble and Freeland delivered with some big time rebounds on the offensive end leading to good Blazer shots.
Behind the energy play from Freeland and the dominance of Lillard, Portland had a 10-point lead with two minutes left but then Kyrie Irving happened. Irving scored nine straight points and assisted on the game-tying basket by Anderson Varejao with 7.1 seconds left.
The Blazers set up a similar isolation set as they did against Detroit and rather than take the ball into the interior, Lillard rose up and stuck a three in the face of Cleveland’s Alonzo Gee.