The first matchup between Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard turned into a huge night for the reigning Rookie of the Year.
Irving scored 31 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers 93-88 on Wednesday to snap a four-game losing streak.
“When he’s aggressive, he’s pushing the ball and he’s in attack mode,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said of Irving. “I think our guys feed off of that.”
Tristan Thompson added 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Nicolas Batum had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers, who erased a 19-point second-quarter deficit and briefly took the lead. Wesley Matthews added 17 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 15.
“I thought Cleveland, obviously, in the first half played harder,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “But we fought.”
Lillard finished with 13 points. Portland’s rookie point guard is averaging 18.1 a game, but he entered the fourth quarter with only three on 0-for-3 shooting. He got going in the final period, tying the score at 75 with a 3-pointer and giving the Blazers an 86-85 lead by hitting a 20-footer with 2:07 left.
Irving took over from there, though. He made a pull-up jumper, a turnaround bank shot and a couple of free throws as Portland wilted.
“We obviously knew they were going to get back in the game eventually,” Irving said. “It was bound to happen, but we just did a good job of keeping our composure.”
Tyler Zeller had 11 points and nine rebounds for Cleveland, which was playing the fourth game of a five-game Western Conference road trip. The Cavs had lost eight of 10 overall, including 124-118 to Sacramento on Monday.
Portland has lost four straight by a total of 19 points. The Blazers started slow and spent long stretches trying to dig out of holes, possibly the consequence of going overtime with the Nuggets on Tuesday night in a 115-111 loss in Denver’s high altitude.
“There’s no excuses,” Matthews said. “They played better than us for a half and we couldn’t get out of the hole.”