After being eliminated from the NBA in-season tournament, the Cleveland Cavaliers turn their attention toward a matchup against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.
Cleveland fell just short of reaching the tournament’s knockout round despite beating the Atlanta Hawks 128-105 on Tuesday.
Donovan Mitchell scored 40 points in the victory, while Evan Mobley added 17 points with a career-high 19 rebounds and seven blocks.
The Cavaliers finished the tourney at 3-1 and in second place in East Group A, but lost out on the final wild-card spot to the New York Knicks.
With the tournament now behind them, the Cavaliers are looking to build on back-to-back home wins over the Toronto Raptors and the Hawks.
“You want to play, win the championship, make the extra bread, but you look at the little things that we’ve done over the past few days and that’s what we want to continue to build on,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t get this championship so now the main goal is to focus on the next one and continue to build. I’m not going to sit here and be upset because at the end of the day we won. That’s the end goal. This was a good win.”
Cleveland has won its last five meetings against the Blazers, including a 109-95 victory on Nov. 15 in Portland. Mitchell scored 34 points and Mobley had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Portland is trending in the right direction after winning two of its last three games. Jerami Grant scored 34 points and Deandre Ayton had 22 points and 13 rebounds in the Blazers’ 114-110 road win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
The Blazers were able to slow down the high-scoring Pacers, who entered the game averaging a league-high 128.8 points.
“We knew what we had to do to give our team a chance playing against a team that is so brilliant offensively like they are,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “We said we had to win the first 10 seconds of every possession if we are going to give ourselves a chance to win. For 70 percent of the game, we did that.
“We are trying to establish ourselves as a good defensive team and I thought today was an important step.”
The rebuilding Blazers left a strong impression on Indiana star Tyrese Haliburton.
“I thought they did a good job,” Haliburton said. “They’ve got a lot of length on the floor. With Toumani (Camara), Jerami, Matisse (Thybulle), that’s some of the best hands in basketball. I think they have a lot of young dudes who play the passing lanes very well. Play gaps. And they’re disciplined. I think it’s a well-coached team over there. Chauncey is doing a good job with those guys.”
Portland continues its five-game road trip with a tough matchup against Cleveland. Among the priorities will be Mitchell, who recorded his first double-double of the season on Tuesday against Atlanta with 40 points and 11 rebounds.
“That’s my job,” Mitchell said. “It’s not going to be 40 every night but continuing to play within the nuances of the game. It was 40 sometimes, maybe 20, whatever it may be. But at the end of the day, just trying to impact the game in any way that I can.”
–Field Level Media