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Blazers Host Cavaliers

Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge have transformed the Blazers into contenders.

Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge have transformed the Blazers into contenders.

Already owning a narrow advantage at the top of the Northwest Division, the Portland Trail Blazers will look to move one step closer to the top of the Western Conference standings Wednesday as the team hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tip-off at Moda Center is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. ET.

Portland (28-9, 15-4 home) continues to defy all odds this season, having emerged as a legitimate threat out west.

The Blazers have challenged the naysayers that decreed the club’s early success wouldn’t last and, with the halfway point of the season just days away, have compiled the NBA’s third-best record.

Only the Indiana Pacers (30-7) and San Antonio Spurs (30-8) have superior records heading into Wednesday’s action.

A win on Wednesday coupled with a Spurs loss against the Utah Jazz would move the Blazers to within one-half game of the current Western Conference leaders.

LaMarcus Aldridge has proven to be a huge part of the Blazers’ success this season.

The eighth-year forward out of the University of Texas has been described as the Blazers’ MVP this week by the Portland Tribune, an accolade that’s hard to refute. His 23.6 points and 11.0 rebounds both rank sixth across the Association.

Aldridge has gotten a lot of support from reigning Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, also. Lillard is averaging 21.4 points and 5.7 assists per contest, and has hit a slew of big time shots this season, including a game-winning three-pointer against Wednesday’s opponent last month.

But while there’s plenty to celebrate in the Rose City, head coach Terry Stotts and his side realizes that getting to the top and staying there takes a lot of hard work and effort. And it takes wins over teams like the Cavaliers.

Cleveland (14-24, 4-16 road) hasn’t had the rosiest of seasons so far but the team is showing signs of improvement.

The Cavaliers picked up a 120-118 win over the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night to give the side three wins in the last four.

Two of those wins coincide with the arrival of Luol Deng, who has averaged 16.3 points in his first three games with the Cavaliers. Deng scored 27 in Los Angeles Tuesday, making an early argument that Cleveland did the right thing dealing for the 28-year-old forward.

This current run of improved form sees the Cavaliers sitting just 1.5 games behind the Charlotte Bobcats, the team that currently occupies the No. 8 seed in an anemic Eastern Conference. Going forward, Mike Brown will be confident his team can snatch that berth or better.

But the Cavaliers, winners of just four road games this season, can expect a tough challenge Wednesday night.

The Blazers rank in the league’s top five when playing at home, and have picked up wins in six of the last eight games at Moda Center.

Cleveland though has shown some grit against the superior Western Conference, tallying a 5-6 record in inter-conference games. The Cavs are also 3-2 against Northwest Division opponents, although only one of those wins came on the road.

After Wednesday’s game against Cleveland, the Blazers will embark on a tough four-game road swing, taking in games in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Oklahoma City. With that gauntlet ahead, the Blazers will really covet a win over the Cavaliers.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Portland Trail Blazers odds for 01/15/2014

Portland understandably opened as the favorite when lines were unveiled, with the spread starting at 11.5.

The Blazers have had the Cavaliers’ number in recent seasons. Including last Month’s 119-116 win in Cleveland – which saw both Lillard (36pts, 10asts) and Aldridge (26pts, 15rebs) record double-doubles – Portland has won five of the last six meetings between the sides, a trend that dates back to LeBron James leaving town.

But the Cavaliers will be a threat to cover the spread.

Although Cleveland (17-21-0 ATS) has struggled against the spread this season, particularly on the road (6-14-0 ATS), the last three meetings between these sides have been decided by five points or less. Portland (21-16-0 ATS) will be hoping for a comfortable win, one that sees them cover the spread.

The over/under opened at 208.5.

Cleveland (19-19-0) has split the over/under evenly, although 10 of the team’s last 15 road games have seen the total go over. Portland (27-10-0) meanwhile has heavily favored the over as it continues to light up NBA scoreboards.

Seven of the last 10 meetings between the sides have seen the total go over, including December’s 235-point thriller.

Luol Deng has impressed so far in three games with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Luol Deng has impressed so far in three games with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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