Don’t call it a comeback! Or do. Whatever. After a near month-long hiatus that was the result of holiday obligations, illness, and weather, the 324 Report is back to the excitement of probably nobody. But it’s back anyway. New year, slightly new format (because you can only say the same things about Evan Turner and Moe Harkless so many times). Let’s get it.
Summary of the match: The Blazers trounced the defending champs 102-86 in a game that people will probably read way more into than they should. Portland had total control of the game throughout, leading by 8 at halftime and winning every quarter.
Man of the match: Allen “Cal grad” Crabbe. How does a sub-500 team go about leading the best team in the league at halftime despite its two best players combining for 11 first half points? By having a second unit guy lose his damn mind, of course. Crabbe had 18 in the first half and ended up with 24 of Portland’s 30 non-garbage time bench points. The offense wasn’t very special early, but Crabbe shot the Blazers out of their second quarter funk and was also a + player on defense as well (not always the case). Game ball, young man.
It’s unclear whether LeBron broke a sweat: LBJ is an unfathomably dominant player. When he’s on the floor, everything orbits around him because at any given time he’s the best on the floor at everything (passing, rebounding, everything but shooting). That’s why it was sort of a bummer to see him in total Coast Mode. He is consistently going half-speed at best on defense. He’ll occasionally choose to dominate on the offensive end (which he can do whenever he wants, especially tonight when Harkless and Turner really had nothing for him). But those instances were few and far between on a night when Cleveland’s big 3 combined for 14-43 shooting. And even stranger given they were coming off a loss last night as well.
Did Cleveland pack it in too early?: I’m well aware that Cleveland’s aspirations extend far beyond a single regular season game, and they are very cautious about getting too far into fourth and fifth gear, given the age and injury propensity of some of their players. But man, they probably could have come and taken this game if they wanted to. Let’s set the seen a bit. Portland is experiencing its worst snow storm maybe ever. This is relevant because the Blazers, who played in LA last night, had to fly into Seattle instead of Portland (landed in Seattle at about 2 am). They then got on a plan at around noon and flew to PDX, stopped at the Benson Hotel for a nap and a snack, and headed straight to the arena. Cleveland was delayed but was able to get into Portland last night. Given these circumstances, the league would have postponed this game almost 100% of the time. They didn’t because this was slotted as a national TV game, and the league doesn’t budge on that. There’s not doubt Portland was dragging. Fast forward to the fourth quarter with the Blazers leading by 12, with the lead sea-sawing between 9 and 15. LeBron never sees the floor in the fourth, and Cleveland sends in their scrubs with 6 (!) minutes left. Could they have come back? Odds say no, but given Portland’s certain fatigue, Blazer fans wouldn’t have been comfortable until triple zeroes.
- Blazer fans are completely insane. The governor declared a STATE OF EMERGENCY in Portland due to the snow storm. Chains were mandated in Portland metro for the first time EVER. Buses and Max lines are running only occasionally. Team officials were expecting a crowd of as little as 5,000 (https://twitter.com/BlazerFreeman/status/819391817439285251). And yet, the place was basically full. That is, of course, great and everything. The downside was that because team officials were expecting such a sparse crowd, they closed all concessions in the upper bowl and only had one entrance/exit fully staffed. This led to obscene security and food lines. So maybe expect more from your paying customers when the champs are in town, Paul Allen.
- Honestly, the Cavs just looked like crap all around. Kyrie sucked (4-16). Kevin Love was pretty meh shooting (5-15) and was his usual worthless self on D. The only Cav who kind of showed up was Tristan Thompson but that’s probably just his Kardashian Glow he has going. Cleveland lost by 29 in Portland last year. I think it’s time to wonder if Cleveland has a #PortlandProblem.
- Dame Lillard didn’t have a great game but that’s probably because he’s still salty about being poked last night or something (https://twitter.com/CSNNW/status/819076302619766784).
- Meyers Leonard did not play, not even in garbage time with the likes of Jake Layman and Shabazz Napier. Maybe he got banged up last night or some other behind-the-scenes thing we don’t know about, but something to keep an eye on.
- Finally someone I can talk too (https://twitter.com/NateDuncanNBA/status/819418574150172672).
Whoopty do, what does it all mean, Basil?: The bizarre and unlikely to be replicated circumstances of this game suggest probably nothing. But it is nice to send all of the displaced Cleveland “natives” (who oddly all have brand new LeBron jerseys) home sad.
Next home game: 1/13/17 v. Orlando