Portland pulls away from Cavaliers

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PORTLAND -- For 45 1/2 minutes, the road-weary Cleveland Cavaliers were the equal of the PORTLAND Trail Blazers.

Then, the Blazers closed out on a 12-0 run to break a 96-96 tie and provide a 108-96 victory Wednesday night at the Moda Center.

"A lot of good teams are able to do that in the fourth quarter," PORTLAND coach Terry Stotts said. "I think we're a good team. We have the confidence and the resolve and the determination to find a way to win in the fourth quarter."

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32 points -- including nine straight points at the front end of the winning run -- and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Blazers (29-9), who also got 28 points, six rebounds and five assists from guard Damian Lillard.

Forward Luol Deng scored 25 points and guard Kyrie Irving added 21 for the Cavaliers (14-25), playing the second of back-to-back games after a 120-118 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. It was the fourth game of Cleveland's five-game trip that ends Friday night at Denver.

Aldridge struggled with his shot much of the game, finishing 12 for 26 from the field. But he got it together when the Blazers needed it most.

"He hit some tough shots down the stretch, came up with some tough rebounds for kick-out 3's," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "It discombobulated us a little bit. Then we missed some shots, and there was the ballgame."

The first half featured an entertaining shootout between young point guards Lillard and Irving. Lillard scored 20 points to pace PORTLAND to a 52-50 lead at halftime while Irving tallied 15 for the Cavaliers. Aldridge had 13 points and six rebounds at the break for the Blazers.

Cleveland jumped in front 75-69, but the Blazers closed the third quarter with an 8-0 run, Aldridge scoring on a rebound basket at the buzzer for a 77-75 lead.

PORTLAND's lead was 86-80 early in the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers tied it at 88 with 6:16 remaining. The teams battled back and forth until Aldridge sank a 3-pointer, then -- with the score tied 96-96 -- hit a pair of free throws with 2:31 left to push the Blazers in front 98-96. On their next two possessions, Aldridge sank an 18-footer from the top, then converted a left-handed drive to extend the margin to 102-96 with 1:28 to go.

When guard Wesley Matthews drained a 3 to make it 105-96 with 58 seconds left, it was over.

"Very deflating," said Irving of PORTLAND's late-game marksmanship. "But big-time players make big-time shots."

"When it's gut-check time and it's time to win a game, we've done a great job of doing that," said Lillard, who had no turnovers in his 36 minutes.

Cleveland was in front 27-26 after a tightly contested first quarter, Deng scoring 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting to lead the way.

The Cavaliers, with guard Dion Waiters scoring seven straight points, went on an 11-0 run to go in front 38-30 early in the second quarter. It was 46-38 when the Blazers seized momentum, outscoring the visitors 16-4 the rest of the period as Lillard knocked down three straight 3-pointers.

NOTES: F LaMarcus Aldridge's late 3-pointer was his first of the season in seven attempts. ... He notched his 22nd double-double and enjoyed his 16th game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. ... G Damian Lillard, who was 5 for 10 from 3-point range, has made at least four 3's an NBA-high 17 times this season. ... F Luol Deng, playing in his fourth game with Cleveland since being acquired in a trade with Chicago, has averaged 18.5 points in his four games with the Cavaliers. "He brings professionalism, on and off the floor," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said before the game. "You know what you're going to get from him every night. He's a great example for our young guys to look up to. He gives it to you on both ends of the floor. He's been in big games, in winning situations. That can rub off on everybody." ... The Blazers had three days off after a 112-104 win over Boston on Saturday. "We had 15 guys for practice (on Monday and Tuesday)," PORTLAND coach Terry Stotts said. "In all my time in the NBA, I don't know if I've had 15 guys for practice in January. We've had very good, competitive practices and have gotten a lot of work done."


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