PORTLAND — Saturday made it look as though “The Portland Lesson,” is a staple in the LeBron James Leadership Handbook.
Or perhaps it’s the 28-1 Golden State Warriors that should be credited with a holiday hangover of epic proportions.
Whatever the reason, the Damian Lillard-less Blazers routed the Cavaliers 105-76 Saturday at the Moda Center, snapping a five-game losing streak.
After the Blazers beat the Cavaliers by 19 on Nov. 4, 2014, James was quoted as saying that the Cavaliers needed to learn how to play the right way after years of losing.
Fast-forward to pre-game Saturday when a reporter asked Blazers coach Terry Stotts if he had remembered or noticed James’ teaching lesson in Cleveland’s visit to Portland last season.
Stotts brushed off the question, saying he didn’t remember, but he and the Blazers were treated to a sequel.
James’ night was almost a carbon copy of that night early last season, finishing with 12 points, five assists, four rebounds on 4-of-13 shooting and the result was the same.
Without Lillard, the Blazers struggle to keep up against any team, so one could only imagine how poorly they’d do against one with championship aspirations like the Cavaliers.
It looked like the Cavaliers expected to win with ease, too.
The Blazers opened the game on a 23-8 run and finished the first quarter up 34-12.
Allen Crabbe — who was drafted by the Cavaliers but traded on draft day in 2013 — outscored the Cavaliers 13-12 in the first quarter.
Crabbe finished with a career-high 26 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 19 points in the first half with 21 points.
The Blazers’ best playmaker was constant ball movement. Five players had four assists or more.
Mason Plumlee finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. CJ McCollum had 16 points, six assists and four rebounds.
Cleveland’s puzzling amount of turnovers turned into a lay-up line for the Blazers.
The Cavaliers went to James at power forward in the second quarter — a look that helped change the game for Cleveland in their comeback win over the Blazers earlier this month — against an all-reserve unit.
But the Cavaliers couldn’t count on any one thing Saturday.
Without McCollum or Crabbe on the floor, the Blazers struggled to muster points, but things were almost as hard for the Cavaliers.
Portland’s offense was as crisp as could be, as they shot 50 percent from the field, 53 percent from long-range and didn’t commit a turnover in the first half.
It was the first half of turnover-less basketball from any team in the NBA this season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
The Cavaliers defense couldn’t stop the Blazers in almost any situation and found themselves down by 29 points at halftime.
For the third consecutive game, the Blazers were without their best player in Lillard.
And fans weren’t even given half of the point guard battle they paid to see with Cleveland’s point guard Kyrie Irving resting as part of his return from a knee injury in June’s NBA Finals.
But the rest of the Cavs looked as though they wanted to join Irving in watching the game from the bench.
Part of the reason the Blazers were able to keep the Cavaliers at bay was some needed shot-making off the bench from Meyers Leonard.
After getting hot in a blowout loss to the Pelicans, Leonard stayed in rhythm against the defending Eastern Conference champs.
Leonard finished with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and one 3-pointer in Kevin Love’s face in the first half.
The Blazers did not get out completely unscathed, however, as Ed Davis suffered a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return.