Cleveland Cavaliers come up clutch, show toughness in 119-113 comeback win over Portland Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. — Better late than never.

Behind for most of the night, the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the floundering Portland Trail Blazers, 119-113, while also silencing a once-lively Moda Center. The come-from-behind road triumph now gives the Cavs a chance at a successful trip.

Cleveland did not take its first lead — a narrow one-point advantage — until the 4:40 mark of the fourth quarter. It trailed for more than 42 minutes. The Blazers led by a game-high 14 at one point. Guard Damian Lillard was in the midst of his best game of the season, putting on a show for the hometown crowd and causing the building to become hysterical at different moments throughout.

But the Cavs showed their mental toughness. They withstood Lillard’s avalanche and saved their best for the last quarter, leaving Portland with a gritty win.

“It shows their belief in themselves and an ability to stick together,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said. “That team has one of the best players in our league. They’ve admittedly been going through some things and they were determined to go out and try to win this game. Our guys responded well. It didn’t start the way we liked, but they never quit and continued to find a way to give themselves a chance in the end.”

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In the late-game turnaround, the Cavs got defensive and outscored the Blazers, 32-22, over the final 12 minutes. Cleveland held Portland to just 7 of 19 from the field and 2 of 11 from 3-point range in the fourth.

The Cavs were led by Mitchell, a likely Eastern Conference All-Star starter who is having a career year. Even though Mitchell was drained following an emotional return to Utah on Tuesday and was also battling a nasty head cold that had him feeling under the weather during the day, he erupted for 10 fourth-quarter points, including a clutch step-back triple that gave Cleveland took its first lead of the night with less than five minutes remaining.

“When you’re that good you don’t lack confidence,” Bickerstaff said of Mitchell’s performance. “I thought he got his shots early and he continued to find his shots. Then, obviously, he was making some of the shots only he can make.”

Mitchell finished with 26 points on 11 of 23 shooting and 2 of 8 from deep to go with five rebounds and five assists. He made five of his eight attempts in the fourth quarter, reaffirming his status as the team’s late-game alpha.

“Just keep fighting. We didn’t play well in the first half and even parts of the third. But we were still there,” Mitchell said afterwards. “Not hanging our head. Understanding that nights like that, when a guy’s got it going at their place, in a nice arena where they get loud, just understand you have to keep pushing and keep going. We all did it as a group.”

Center Jarrett Allen matched his season-high with 24 points and 10 boards. Darius Garland recorded a double-double as well, tallying 20 points and 10 assists. Garland poured in eight of those points in the fourth.

“I tell him to be aggressive,” Mitchell explained. “In his growth as a player, he’s understanding where to come in and, obviously, I’ve typically been the guy late, but I told him, ‘Look, teams are going to scout that, teams are going to be ready for that , teams are going to try to deny me the ball.’ Just him making big plays. That’s what he is capable of and continuously doing that on a nightly basis.”

Evan Mobley (17) and Isaac Okoro (11) also reached double figures.

Making his season debut and playing for the first time since tearing his left ACL on Dec. 28, 2021, veteran guard Ricky Rubio had quite an impact. He finished with nine points, three rebounds and one assist in 10 minutes. With him on the floor, the Cavs outscored Portland by six points.

“He’s calming down. He’s steady. He makes everybody better. He’s got courage,” Bickerstaff said when asked about Rubio’s return. “He made those two big shots to help us continue a run and bring us back in the game. You just see how he helps everybody and how he organizes and puts guys in the right place and simplifies the game for everyone.”

Because of the defense Portland played, including an ineffective zone, the Cavs finished the game with 16 dunks. Many of those were big-to-big lobs — a lethal Mobley-Allen connection.

“Feed your local big man,” Allen said with a smile and a laugh. “Need I say more?”

The Blazers, who entered the night riding a four-game losing skid, got a season-high 50 points on 16 of 28 shooting from Lillard. Swingman Jerami Grant chipped in with 22.

Prior to the road trip, Bickerstaff spoke about how these long treks can galvanize a group. The key is staying unified — through the ups and downs.

Thursday was the latest example. A character-defining victory.

“It’s a part of our experience and growth,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s part of us understanding the moment and being put in difficult situations and not fracturing. Stay together. Take punches in the face. Do not take steps back. Just keep coming.”

Injury setback

Cavaliers forward Dean Wade missed his 20th straight game Thursday night. Not only is Wade still recovering from a sprained left shoulder, but he also now has soreness in his ankle after landing on someone’s foot during a 1-on-1 workout as part of his rehab process. It’s unclear how much time he will miss as a result.

Up next

The Cavs wrap up their five-game road trip with a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 8 pm

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