Last night’s Cleveland Cavaliers-Portland Trail Blazers matchup was a doozy and, despite ultimately falling by a score of 119-116, it was a solid effort by the Wine & Gold. They were largely out rebounded (42-28 overall, 13-8 on the offensive boards) but timely runs came at the right time and kept the game close.
And at the end, Kyrie Irving laid down a slick pass to Anderson Varejao that brought the game tied at 116. When Portland called a timeout to move the ball beyond the half court line, they had a shade over seven seconds to work with. And using all but 0.4 of that time, Damian Lillard put down the dagger that sealed the game for Trail Blazers, who now have the best record in the NBA.
Lillard’s shot remind me of two other game winners, both of which were taken by Cavaliers players. The first was Irving’s game winner against the Raptors in Toronto last season. Like Irving, Lillard was well behind the three-point line when he pulled up to shoot and there isn’t much you can do to defend that. I have my gripes about Alonzo Gee as a starting caliber NBA small forward, but him giving Lillard space at the end of regulation is not one of them.
The other shot is this LeBron James game winner when the Cavaliers took on the Orlando Magic in the 2008 playoffs. The shot is different (catch and shoot versus pull-up) Yahoo! Cavs writer Alex Marcheschi tweeted a photo of Lillard mid-shot and all I could think of was James’ game winner.
Still, despite that loss, there were some solid plays on the Cavaliers side of things. None, however, may be better than Irving’s pass to Varejao as he was triple-teamed attacking inside. Irving showed great awareness in passing when he did and not forcing a shot that, in all likelihood, would have been blocked by one of the three Trail Blazers inside. It was a the right play in that moment, without question.
And lastly, take a look at the overall game highlights if you missed the game. But if you can, watch the whole thing, as it was the most entertaining Cavaliers’ game of the season thus far.