Cavs, Blazers meet to reverse recent trend

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January 3, 2022; Portland, Oregon, United States; Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) rebounds in the dying seconds of the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, two teams looking to get out of a downhill slide face off when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Portland Trail Blazers.

Cleveland has lost four of its last five games as it opens a six-game road trip, while the Trail Blazers have lost five of their six games and 15 of their last 19.

The Cavaliers have also traditionally struggled in Portland, losing in seven straight visits.

The Trail Blazers continue to be deprived of their starting backcourt with Damian Lillard (abdomen) and CJ McCollum (lung). But absences give fourth-year pro Anfernee Simons a chance to shine.

Simons scored 28 points and scored five 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 115-109 home loss to the Miami Heat. It followed his career-best performance of 43 points in Monday’s 136-131 home win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Simons made 13 of 21 shots against the Hawks, made 9 of 16 from behind the arc and 8 of 8 from the line. The nine 3 points corresponded to his best career.

“I was sort of trying to make the right plays at times and trying to find my way of being aggressive at certain points,” said Simons, who was raised to the starting rank. “And then in the second half they started playing normally, not being up at the start of the third quarter and that’s when I knew it was time for me to start being aggressive, that’s when I got hot.

Against the Heat, Simons helped Portland recover from a 19-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but Miami made more plays in the home stretch.

“Just a missed opportunity,” said Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. “I thought we were playing hard as hell. There is always a moment of truth in the game. We knew this team is a very good offensive rebounding team, and they keep coming. We’ve talked about it and sometimes until it happens you don’t really get it.

The Cavaliers are looking to sweep the regular-season series with Portland. Cleveland recorded a 107-104 home win on Nov. 3 behind Jarrett Allen’s 24 points and 17 rebounds.

But now the Cavaliers are struggling to prepare for their longest trip of the season. The Golden State Warriors are the second game of the tour and a visit to the Utah Jazz is coming.

Cleveland was outscored in the home stretch Tuesday, losing 110-106 to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

“We’re learning the fourth quarter is what’s important,” Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said. “Every shot, every pass, every possession, every box, every spin means everything. Give Memphis credit for pulling off the punches in the end.

Outstanding guard Darius Garland contributed 27 points and 10 assists after missing the previous four games while in COVID-19 protocol. Allen added 22 points and 12 rebounds. Garland was delighted to be back on the field with Allen.

“It was super fun, but it’s been fun all year round,” Garland said of his teammate. “He prepares me some very good screens and I try to reward him. So it’s fun to have a lot of lobs and he laughs and smiles. It makes the game a lot of fun.

Recently acquired playmaker Rajon Rondo is outside of COVID-19 protocol and is listed as probable ahead of what would be his Cleveland debut.

– Media at field level

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