The Portland Trail Blazers will try to take advantage of a break created by one of their Western Conference rivals when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game with playoff implications on Wednesday night.
While the Trail Blazers (36-29) were comfortably watching on television at a nearby hotel, the Cavaliers (21-44) were extended to overtime Tuesday night in a 134-118 loss to the visiting Phoenix Suns.
Portland can expect to see a tired opponent when it attempts to improve upon its seventh-place standing in the West.
The Trail Blazers will begin play Wednesday one game behind the Dallas Mavericks (37-28) and Los Angeles Lakers (37-28) in a three-team duel for the fifth and sixth seeds in the West, which will gain automatic entry into the first round of the playoffs.
The team that finishes seventh in the regular season will have to go the play-in route in an effort to claim the seventh or eighth spot.
Neither the Mavericks nor Lakers will play on Wednesday, but both draw a tough matchup on Thursday when Dallas hosts Brooklyn, and the Lakers meet the rival Clippers.
Wednesday's game against Cleveland not only will complete a nine-day, six-game trip for the Trail Blazers, but it will send them home, where they will play four of their final six games, including a showdown with the Lakers on Friday night.
Portland had won the first four games of the trip before falling 123-114 to Atlanta on Monday on the second night of a back-to-back.
As usual, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have led the Blazers on the trip, averaging 27.4 and 21.8 points, respectively. But Norman Powell and Anfernee Simons also have played important roles, Powell averaging 16.2 points on 45 percent shooting from the field, while Simons has connected on half of his 3-point attempts (14-of-28) en route to 10.4 points per night.
The Trail Blazers haven't played the Cavaliers in almost three months, since a 129-110 win in Portland on Feb. 12. Carmelo Anthony contributed 23 points to the win.
Cleveland's Collin Sexton had 25 points in defeat in that game. He went for 29 in Tuesday's loss to Phoenix, giving him 20 or more points in 15 straight games.
Lillard had gone for 20 or more in nine straight, including 33 in the loss in Atlanta on a day that began with the Trail Blazers' traveling party being rushed out of their hotel and into a safer area during an early morning tornado warning.
Afterward, Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts reminded everyone there are more important things than basketball games.
"I know tornadoes can do anything," he assured. "You have to take the right precautions. The hotel staff was very organized."
The Cavaliers' loss to the Suns was their seventh in a row as they continue a season-ending run of 10 straight against teams that either have clinched playoff spots or are jockeying for position or are trying to get in.
The meeting with the Trail Blazers means another matchup between Portland-area native Kevin Love against his hometown team. The veteran has left no doubt he'd love to finish his career as a Trail Blazer.
"Who wouldn't want to play with Dame Lillard?" he declared recently. "Whether it be at the end of my career, whether it be in six months, or whatever it may be, if I was wearing a Portland jersey, that's special. That's playing at home."
The oft-injured Love endured 34 minutes Tuesday on the front end of the back-to-back. He's uncertain for Wednesday's game.
--Field Level Media