PORTLAND — Wednesday night at the Moda Center was a showcase of the skills of two of the game’s great young point guards: Portland’s Damian Lillard and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving.
However, only one player was showered with chants of “M-V-P” as LaMarcus Aldridge, in true desperado mode, stole the show from the game’s young guns.
Behind Aldridge’s 32 points and 18 rebounds, the Trail Blazers defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-96 for their third consecutive win.
The Blazers struggled from the three-point line for the first three quarters and needed Aldridge, who can change the dynamic of a game with a single touch.
“When we struggle or we can’t score, we just get him the ball inside,” said Portland’s Nicolas Batum. “Just by standing with the ball, he creates so many things. Just give him the ball and don’t move and all the defense gets focused on him.”
Batum listed everything that Aldridge had on display as he even added in a wrinkle.
“He’s got the fade, he can go to the block, he can drive, he can pump fake. Finish left, right, he even made a step-back three tonight,” Batum said about his longest-tenured teammate.
The first half was dominated by Damian Lillard, who scored 20 of his 28 points in the first two quarters.
Aldridge did not have a lot going from the field in the first few quarters but in the second half, Portland’s MVP turned it on.
Aldridge scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the second half to power Portland — including his first made three-pointer of the season in seven attempts.
The Blazers did a solid job defensively in a platoon effort to slow down Irving. At least four Trail Blazers had their try at Irving, and he had a rough shooting night, going 7 of 20 from the field.
The Blazers also did well to slow down Cleveland’s Dion Waiters in the second half after Waiters scored efficiently in the first half, holding him to 3-of-9 shooting.
“I really thought it was good individual defense — whether it was Mo or Damian or Wes or Nic,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts about the second half defense against Cleveland’s dribbling duo.
Luol Deng, acquired by the Cavaliers last weekend from the Chicago Bulls, continued to have a positive effect on the young Cavaliers team. One night after scoring 27 against the Lakers, Deng scored 25 points to lead the Cavs.
The Blazers defense improved in the second half significantly, but it was especially good in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers were shooting 46 percent after three quarter but the Blazers held them to 34 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers did not score in the game’s final 2:54 as the Blazers put the finishing kick around the final curve, led by Aldridge and Lillard.
Thomas Robinson continues to make his way into Terry Stotts’ rotation, coming up with some big fourth quarter minutes. Robinson finished with four points, six rebounds and assist in 13 minutes.
Mo Williams, despite not having a very good shooting night, tallied seven assists to lead the Blazers off the bench.
Thomas Robinson said that assistant coach David Vanterpool gathered Portland’s reserves with two minutes left in the third quarter, indicating that they needed to provide a spark in a tight game.
“It was a close game, but the momentum be rolling our way,” said Robinson who continues to feel more comfortable on the court.
The Blazers will now head to San Antonio to start a four-game road trip on Friday.
“I don’t think it’s a test,” said Lillard of the upcoming trip. “I think it’s an opportunity to prove ourselves.”
• Coming into Wednesday night, the Blazers were able to enjoy four days without having to play including three days of practice. In those practices, the Blazers had all 15 players participate in January, something Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he’s never seen in all of his years of coaching.
• Speaking of Aldridge, his former teammate, former No. 1 pick Greg Oden played tonight for the Miami Heat for the first time since 2009 and Aldridge was happy for him. “He’s worked hard to get to this point,” Aldridge said before the game.