Blazers pull away from Cavs
PORTLAND — LaMarcus Aldridge knew when it was his time.
The two-time All-Star went on a personal nine-point rally to pull Portland ahead for good and the Trail Blazers closed out the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 12-0 run for a 108-96 victory on Wednesday night.
Aldridge finished with 32 points and 18 rebounds for his 22nd double-double of the season. The 6-foot-11 forward also made his first 3-pointer.
"I had missed so many shots early and I looked up and it was two minutes left and I told Will Barton, 'It's my time.' I stepped up and just made shots down the stretch," he said.
Damian Lillard added 28 points for the Blazers (29-9), who won their third straight and sit behind only San Antonio in the Western Conference.
Newly acquired forward Luol Deng had 25 points for the Cavaliers, who were playing the second of a back-to-back after a victory over the Lakers on Tuesday night. Kyrie Irving added 21 points.
Dion Waiters' 3-pointer gave the Cavs a 94-93 lead with 3:44 to go. Aldridge made his first 3-pointer of the season to give Portland back the lead, but Anderson Varejao's tip tied it at 96.
Aldridge answered with pair of free throws, a 19-foot jumper and a layup that made it 102-96.
"He knew it was winning time and I just felt like you could see him with the determination of making a play at the rim," coach Terry Stotts said.
The Blazers added consecutive 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews and Lillard for the final margin.
Deng, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Bulls last week in exchange for Andrew Bynum and draft picks, continues to fit in nicely with the Cavaliers. He had 27 points, matching his season high, in Cleveland's 120-118 victory in Los Angeles on Tuesday. It was the Cavaliers' fourth win on the road this season.
Irving went into the game averaging 21.4 points, identical to Lillard, last season's NBA Rookie of the Year.
When the Blazers visited Cleveland on Dec. 17, Lillard sank a long 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Blazers came away with a 119-116 victory. Lillard finished with 36 points, Irving had 25.
It looked at first like this game might come down to which of the talented point guards would have a better night. In the end, however, Aldridge made the difference — prompting fans to once again shower him with "M-V-P!" chants. The Blazers are 19-3 when he has a double-double.
The 3-pointer was Aldridge's first after six unsuccessful attempts this season.
"He said he was going to shoot a 3 every game now," Matthews joked.
Aldridge was relatively quiet in the first half, hitting just five of 13 shots from the floor for 13 points and six rebounds.
Waiters hit consecutive baskets and Tyler Zeller added a layup to give the Cavs a 38-30 lead in the second quarter.
Portland tied it at 46 on Lillard's consecutive 3-pointers. The Blazers pulled in front 49-48 on another 3 from Lillard and Portland led 54-50 at the break.
Irving's long jumper gave the Cavaliers a 65-63 lead in the third quarter while the Blazers struggled to find a basket. Deng's fast-break layup pushed Cleveland's lead to 73-69.
But Aldridge hit a turnaround jumper at the buzzer that gave the Blazers a 77-75 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Portland clung to the lead until Waiters' pull-up jumper tied it at 88 with 6:18 left.
"You've got to give LaMarcus Aldridge credit," said Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. "He hit some tough shots down the stretch. They came up with a couple of tough rebounds for kick-out 3s. It kind of discombobulated us a little bit when they scored. We missed some shots and that was the ballgame."
Notes: The Blazers now embark on a tough four-game road trip that will take them to San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City. ... It was the second time this season that Lillard has had 20 points in the first half.