Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers (10-16 overall, 2-8 last 10 games)
Offensive Rating: 104.0 (30th)
Defensive Rating: 111.4 (18th)>
Where: Moda Center
When: 7:00 p.m. (PST)
Broadcast: NBC Sports Northwest/FOX Sports Ohio
Point Spread: Portland -3.5
Moneyline: Portland -168, Cleveland +142
Cleveland: Matthew Dellavedova (out), Kevin Love (out), Larry Nance (out)
Portland: Zach Collins (out), CJ Elleby (questionable), C.J. McCollum (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Primer: Remember the first several days of the regular season, when the Cavaliers were the talk of the league for a 3-0 start built on league-best defense? Unfortunately for Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff, he probably doesn't either.
The Cavaliers are just 7-16 since winning their first three games, with a -10.2 net rating – the worst in basketball over that timeframe. Their defense has regressed substantially but continues to rank top-five in opponent turnover rate, an especially impressive feat considering major personnel upheaval related to injuries, COVID protocols and the arrival of Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince as part of the James Harden trade.>
Allen, of course, is the Cavaliers' unquestioned center of the future, a label he deserves in the present. But Andre Drummond is still wearing wine and gold, and Bickerstaff–in part due to a glut of bigs on the roster–has been slow to reduce his role to best accommodate Allen. Cleveland has even started the last two games with both centers on the floor.
It'll be a major win for a fatigued Portland squad if Bickerstaff opens with that lineup on Friday night. The Cavs' defensive rating when Allen and Drummond play together? A laughable 146.2, per NBA.com/stats, albeit in just 75 minutes of play. Those understanding the empty nature of Drummond's box-score numbers won't be surprised to learn Cleveland is stingier defensively with just Allen manning the middle than the other way around, too.>
Whether the Cavaliers are playing man defense or 2-3 zone, with both Allen and Drummond on the floor or just one of them, pull-up triples should be there for Portland's shooters all night in ball-screen action. Cleveland ranks second-to-last in opponent three-point percentage, according to Cleaning the Glass, a result of lacking perimeter defense combined with a pick-and-roll scheme that keeps bigs in the paint.
But the Cavaliers' toothless offense is what's most likely to help the Blazers on the second night of a back-to-back. Collin Sexton, ever aggressive as a penetrator, has worked himself into a quality off-dribble shooter from three. But he's cooled a bit after a scorching start, and Darius Garland–also much-improved this season–is still prone to disappearing when his jumper doesn't fall.
Otherwise? Cleveland just doesn't have much individual offense juice. It's not like Sexton and Garland are anywhere close to scraping their potential as Lillard-McCollum lite, either.
Bottom Line: Portland would love nothing more than to finish their homestand undefeated before embarking on another road trip, and the Cavs are easy prey. As long as they have enough lift left in their legs to outshoot Cleveland from three, expect the Blazers to come away with a win.