Long Trip Gets Even Longer With Loss To Cavaliers

by Casey Holdahl
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CLEVELAND -- The first five weeks of the 2019-20 season have gone just about as bad for the Portland Trail Blazers as possible. And it shows no signs of improving.

The Trail Blazers, playing a Cavaliers team on a six-game losing streak that lost the night before in Dallas by 42 points, were out-rebounded, out-worked and foul-prone on the way to a 110-104 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 19,432 Saturday night in Cleveland.

"Didn't shoot the ball very well in the first half," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, "and didn't defend as well as we needed to in the second half."

Portland is now 5-12 overall and 4-8 on the road this season. They have lost four straight and 10 of their last 12. After 17 games, Portland sits in second-to-last place in the Western Conference standings.

"Frustrated, sad, two good adjectives," said CJ McCollum. "We've been inconsistent, obviously, with our record, more inconsistent than consistent. Breakdowns, fouls, offensive rebounds, a little bit of everything. I didn't think we were bad defensively, but those little lapses were costly."

While the Trail Blazers kept the game close in the first half, they never looked to be the better team despite being more rested and having Damian Lillard, who sat out the previous two games with back spasms, returning to the lineup. Despite those advantages, the Cavaliers regularly beat the Blazers out for loose balls, shot twice as many free throws and dominated both the offensive and defensive glass to grab 11 additional rebounds.

"We really small right now," said Lillard. "I think teams realize that so it seems like it's an emphasis for teams to crash harder because they know there's opportunity there. So I think maybe we need to just start face boxing out, just turn around and find somebody and just let the ball bounce. If it comes off the rim, maybe that's the answer, but right now, we really small, which is not an excuse because there's still times where guys are just going after it harder than we are."

After Cleveland took a 49-42 lead into the intermission, the Cavaliers started the second half with a 9-2 run to go up 14 early in the third quarter. Portland did managed to go on an 11-0 run, easily their best stretch of an otherwise abysmal performance, to cut the lead to 61-57, even if that lead would swell back to seven before the fourth.

Just as they did to start the third, the Cavaliers doubled up the Blazers in the first few minutes of the quarter, going on a mini 10-5 run, capped by a Larry Nance Jr. three-pointer, to take a 74-68 lead with 10 minutes to play. Lillard did what he could to salvage the game, scoring 14 points in the final five and a half minutes, but the Cavaliers made enough free throws and the Blazers turned the ball over enough times to get out with their fifth victory of the season.

"You all probably don’t want to hear it, but there’s such a long way to go," said Lillard. "I think because of that there’s two things you can do. You can either pout and say ‘We should’ve won that game. We should’ve did this or we’re not doing this.’ I think our team understands that there’s certain things we’re not doing well enough to win games, but we really do believe, as a group, that it’s going to turn around. We’re just going to stay with it and keep working towards improving. That’s all we can do right now.”

Lillard went 7-of-20 from the field, 4-of-9 from three and 5-of-6 from the free throw line for 23 points to go with eight assists and eight rebounds in 37 minutes.

CJ McCollum finished with 20 points to go with six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal in 38 minutes. Carmelo Anthony, Rodney Hood and Anfernee Simons all finished with 11 points.

Jordan Clarkson led all scorers with 28 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, 6-of-6 shooting from three and 10-of-12 shooting from the free throw line. Tristan Thompson went for 25 points and nine rebounds in 36 minutes. Collin Sexton shot 50 percent from the field for 19 points and Nance Jr. finished with an 11-point, 12 rebounds double-double.

Next up, the Trail Blazers now head to Chicago to finish a six-game road trip with a tilt versus the Bulls Monday night at the United Center.

"I think our team understands that there's certain things we're not doing well enough to win games," said Lillard. "But we really do, as a group, believe that it's going to turn around. We're just going to stay with it and keep working toward improving. That's all we can do right now."

Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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