CLEVELAND — Well, LeBron James sure looked refreshed.
The same could be said for the defense (in the second half anyway), as the Cavaliers overcame an 18-point deficit to end their three-game losing streak, 105-100, over the visiting Trail Blazers on Tuesday.
James rested for Saturday’s game at Miami, but returned to the lineup Tuesday to score 33 points and grab 10 rebounds. Just as he did in his previous game against New Orleans, James erupted in the fourth quarter to keep the Blazers at bay.
The Cavs (14-7) have certainly played better games, and their lack of focus in the first half made you wonder if another loss was on the way.
But coach David Blatt must have delivered a strong message at halftime – and if so, it was clearly heard. The Cavs forced the Blazers into five turnovers in their first eight possessions of the third quarter.
That defense led to an increase in offense, and before you knew it, the Cavs took a 65-63 lead on a 3-pointer from Richard Jefferson.
And when the Blazers got close in the fourth, James hit another three to give the Cavs breathing room — lifting them to a 96-90 advantage with 2:53 remaining in the game. When that happened, you could just see the look on the Blazers’ faces: They knew this would not be their night.
Kevin Love played with considerably more aggressiveness than in his last outing, attacking the basket and drawing fouls. That could be evidenced by his 10 free-throw attempts (he made eight) and 18 points.
Matthew Dellavedova added 17 points and newcomer Jared Cunningham scored 13 off the bench. Cunningham actually started the second half in place of center Timofey Mozgov, as Blatt decided to go smaller to try to match up with the Blazers’ talented guards.
One of those guards, All-Star Damian Lillard, scored 33 points. The other, C.J. McCollum, scored 24 on 10-of-19 shooting. McCollum is a product of Canton GlenOak High School and had his own cheering section in the stands.
But much like the Blazers, that section was silenced when James and the Cavs’ defense came to life in the second half.
The Cavs have now won 17 of 19 vs. the Western Conference, outscoring West teams by an average of nearly 11 points per game in that span.