Aldridge scores 28 in Blazers' 98-78 win over Cavs
By ANNE M. PETERSON/AP Sports Writer
Jan. 8, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2012 at 7:09 p.m.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - After a demoralizing loss in Phoenix, it took the Portland Trail Blazers some time to get going at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The first half Sunday night was a yawner, but the Blazers picked up the pace in the second and pulled away for a 98-78 victory. LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and eight rebounds.
"It wasn't sharp, and when you come off a bad game like we played in Phoenix, you've got to be sharp," Aldridge said.
The Blazers are 6-2, with their two losses coming on the road to the Clippers and the Suns. The 102-77 defeat at Phoenix on Friday came after a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers the night before.
Portland coach Nate McMillan gave his team Saturday off, and didn't hold shootaround until later than usual on Sunday. The result? McMillan said the Blazers seemed "in a daze."
"I knew we needed to get that blood circulating, but it took us a half to get going," McMillan said.
Wesley Matthews added 24 points for the Blazers, who led by as many as 24 in the second half.
Rookie guard Kyrie Irving, the top pick in last June's NBA draft, had a season-best 21 points - 11 in the third quarter. Antawn Jamison, Cleveland's top scorer going into the game, made a 3-pointer for his only basket but grabbed 11 rebounds.
Cleveland (4-4) was coming off a 98-87 victory at Minnesota on Friday.
The Cavaliers were only allowing an average of six fast-break points per game, but Portland had 22 even though the overall pace of the game - especially the first half - seemed sluggish.
The Cavs also had a season-high 24 turnovers, which led to 28 Blazers points. For the game, Cleveland shot 36.7 percent.
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said his team wasn't sharp, either.
"I didn't think that we had the focus that we needed mentally, for whatever reason, especially on the offensive end," Scott said. "I've never seen us that flip with the ball, kind of throwing it everywhere like a hot potato."
Portland led by as many as six in the first quarter, but Cleveland tied it at 24 midway through the second on Ramon Sessions' short jumper and free throw.
Both teams played unhurriedly in the first half, and the pace was especially noticeable for Portland because the Blazers have adopted a more up-tempo style this season.
Anderson Varejao put the Cavs ahead late in the half, but the Blazers went on a 12-3 run capped by Matthews' 3-pointer to lead 42-35 at the break.
Jamison, who was averaging 17.9 points, was held scoreless in the first half. Aldridge, Portland's top scorer, hit just three of 10 shots from the floor.
The pace picked up in the second half and the Blazers stretched their lead to 53-43 midway through the third quarter on Gerald Wallace's 3-pointer. Wallace finished with 16 points.
The Cavs closed to 57-53 on Jamison's 3-pointer, but that was as close as the Cavs got.
"We were just trying to make a comeback one step at a time," Irving said. "Once we got it down to five we thought we were going to have that turning point, but they made a run again and it cost us."
Nicolas Batum extended Portland's lead to 79-62 with a long jumper in the fourth, and Wallace sealed it with a dunk that made it 85-65. The jam came off a pass by Matthews, who thwarted the Cavaliers by switching direction on the dribble down the court.
Cleveland activated 7-foot Turkish center Semih Erden before the game. Erden hadn't played this season because of a broken right thumb, but got nearly 5 minutes at the end of the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
Notes: Cleveland was playing the third of an eight-game road trip. ... McMillan had the Broncos-Steelers NFL playoff game on during his pregame session with reporters, while Scott waited until the game went to overtime to speak. ... The Cavs made rookie forward Mychel Thompson inactive for the game to make room for Erden. ... Cleveland's 24 turnovers were the most by a Blazers opponent this season. ... The Blazers are 6-0 when Wallace scores 10 or more points. ... Portland's largest margin of victory came in a 129-79 win over the Cavaliers on Nov. 21, 1982.