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Trail Blazers-Cavaliers Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers already have fallen to the NBA's worst team and suffered a pair of double-digit defeats during their disaster of a road trip.
After a thrilling victory, it doesn't appear the Cleveland Cavaliers will make things any easier for them.
Slumping Portland looks to get back on track by beating Cleveland for the fourth straight time Saturday night.
The Blazers (6-10) have lost the first four of their seven-game Eastern trip after falling 96-78 to a Boston team playing without suspended All-Star Rajon Rondo on Friday. They also lost to Brooklyn and Detroit before being the first victim of previously winless Washington on Wednesday.
LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 23 points Friday while former Cavalier J.J. Hickson and rookie Meyers Leonard added 11 apiece for the Blazers, who dropped to 2-7 on the road.
They were averaging 99.5 points prior to their trip, but they're scoring only 86.5 per game during their skid.
"We came out passive and they came out really aggressive," Aldridge said. "After the last game (with) everything they had going on, they had to set the tone early and they did."
Nicolas Batum finished 2 for 11 from the field with nine points and is shooting 31.0 percent over his last five games.
"Of course we're frustrated," Batum said. "The start of the season we played great, so we have to show some pride and (not) play ridiculous like we did (Friday)."
Portland got 22 points off the bench, but its reserves are averaging only 12.9 points - by far the worst mark in the league. The Cavaliers' bench isn't much better, though, ranking 28th with an average of 24.6 points.
Cleveland, though, ended a four-game losing streak after Alonzo Gee's putback with less than a second remaining gave it a 113-111 win at Atlanta on Friday.
"That was my first game-winning shot, and it's a great feeling," Gee said. "This was a big game for us. We really needed this win, and hopefully we can move on tomorrow and get another one."
Jeremy Pargo scored 22 points, Dion Waiters added 21 and Anderson Varejao finished with 20 and 18 rebounds for the second straight game for the Cavs (4-12), who set a season high for points after scoring only 78 in each of their past two games. They also improved to 2-4 since guard Kyrie Irving was sidelined with a fractured finger.
Coach Byron Scott was pleased with the victory, but he knows his team still has to improve considerably.
"We still made a lot of mistakes throughout the game, such as missing switches and allowing offensive rebounds," Scott said. "These are things we can't afford to let happen if we want to win more consistently."
Varejao has been doing his part, posting seven straight double-doubles. He has 11 games with at least 15 rebounds this season, and he leads the NBA with 15.1 per contest.
Aldridge scored 28 points and Wesley Matthews added 24 in a 98-78 home victory over the Cavs in the most recent matchup Jan. 8. The Blazers had lost seven straight in Cleveland before a 111-105 win Feb. 5, 2011.
Updated December 1, 2012