Portland Trail Blazers (14-9 SU, 11-12 ATS) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-7 SU, 11-11 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Friday, December 11, 2009, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Trail Blazers +9/Cavaliers -9
Two very good NBA teams are not playing as well as they want to be playing. The Portland Trail Blazers have lost four of their last six games, and the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost two games in a row. Both teams will be desperate for a big win when they face each other Friday night on ESPN.
This game will be feature a matchup between two of the league’s best young stars, as Brandon Roy goes head-to-head with LeBron James.
LeBron is having a MVP-type season, doing it all for the Cavs with 28.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game. His steals and blocks numbers are down from previous years, but he is shooting over 50 percent from the field this season. He is only shooting 19 shots per game, his lowest number since his rookie year when he attempted 18.9 per game. His free throw percentage is at its highest in his career at 79.0 percent. LeBron is doing more ball-handling and passing this season with the most offensive weapons that he has probably had his career with the addition of Shaquille O’Neal this season and Mo Williams last season. LeBron has his highest assist and turnover totals of his career this season. He is averaging 8.2 assists per game, good enough for sixth in the league, and 3.8 turnovers per game.
Roy is very similar to LeBron but not quite on the same level. Roy is averaging 21.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game this season. All of those numbers are down from last season. The Blazers are 3-5 this season when Roy scores at least 25 points and 11-4 when he scores less than 25. Comparing last season’s numbers to this season, Roy had more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, a higher field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage, and fewer turnovers last season. Roy has to step up his game if the Blazers are going to compete for one of the top playoff spots in the Western Conference.
The Blazers received terrible news last week when they found out Greg Oden would miss the rest of the season with a fractured patella. Without Oden, the Blazers must rely on LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham and Juwan Howard down low. It will be tough for those guys to battle with Shaq, Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson around the basket. The key for the Blazers could be finding a way to neutralize the Cavs’ inside game.
Both of these teams are very deep in the backcourt and on the wing. The Blazers have Roy, Andre Miller, Martell Webster, Steve Blake and Jerryd Bayless. The Cavs have LeBron, Williams, Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West and Jamario Moon. Both of these teams shoot very well from the perimeter, as most of the above-mentioned players are capable of lighting it up from beyond the arc if they are left open. With the size advantage the Cavs will have down low, the Blazers may have to double-team and leave players open on the perimeter. If the Cavs shoot well, they could really open up a big lead. The Blazers will rely on their outside game to stay in the game, so the Cavs have to play solid defense and get a hand up on every outside jumper.
The Cavs have won six straight home games. They started the season just 2-2 at home after going 40-2 at home last season. The Cavs have only allowed over 100 points once in their last 10 games. The only time they allowed over 100 in their last 10 was a 111-109 loss to the Grizzlies on Tuesday in which the game was tied at 100 after 48 minutes of play. The Cavs have scored over 100 points in five of their last six games, with their last game being the exception, a 95-85 loss to the Rockets on Wednesday.
Ryno’s Pick: The Blazers can compete toe-to-toe with the Cavs on the perimeter. Both of these teams have a lot of talented athletes and shooters. But without Oden, the Blazers have no size to compete down low with the Cavs. Shaq, Varejao and Ilgauskas should be able to impose their will and dominate around the basket, opening things up for the entire Cavs offense. Combine that with the fact that the Cavs are at home, where they rarely lose, and they are desperate for a win coming off two straight losses, and the Cavs should be able to score a lot of points and win this one easily. Take the Cavaliers -9.