It also seems, however, that the Trail Blazers are facing an improved Cleveland squad -- playing particularly solid defense on the road -- when they open a three-game homestand Sunday night.
Portland averaged 102.8 points during a 5-1 start, its best since 1999-00 and best in the Western Conference this season. The Blazers, though, couldn't keep it going Friday as they shot 32.5 percent -- their worst mark in nearly two years -- in a 102-77 drubbing at Phoenix.
"It seemed like we were running in quicksand all night," coach Nate McMillan said. "We didn't have a lot of energy. I thought guys were trying to play tonight, but it was one of those nights where we didn't have it."
McMillan's team didn't have any such trouble last season against a Cleveland team that finished last in the Eastern Conference at 19-63. The Blazers (5-2) scored 111 points and shot better than 53.0 percent in each of their two victories over the Cavaliers, including a 111-70 home win March 17 in the most recent meeting.
Before suffering that season sweep, the Cavaliers had won six straight meetings, but those came before LeBron James' departure. They were expected to struggle again this season but head into the Rose Garden above .500 and with two road wins -- five fewer than they had in all of 2010-11.
The Cavaliers (4-3) have been very good defensively away from home, holding opponents to 91.5 points per game and 42.0 percent shooting to rank among the NBA's top five in both categories. Those averages were among the league's worst last season at 107.5 points and 48.8 percent.
They limited Minnesota to 4 of 20 from 3-point range and 39.2 percent shooting overall during a 98-87 victory Friday, the second in a season-high seven consecutive road games.
Leading scorer Antawn Jamison nearly matched his season high with 22 points during his team's third win in four contests.
"There's still a lot of room to improve on both ends of the floor, and I think at times we do tend to lose a little focus for whatever reason," coach Byron Scott said. "But for a young team like we have, to close out the games the way we've been closing out, it's pretty good."
To close out Portland, Scott's team might want to focus on containing LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 20 points in both meetings last season and has double-doubles in each of the last three. The Blazers are 4-0 this season when he scores at least 20.
They're also 4-0 when Wesley Mathews scores more than 15. He was held to eight points Friday while Aldridge had 14.
Matthews had one of his best performances with 31 points and five 3-pointers in a 111-105 victory at Cleveland on Feb. 5. He's made 13 of 19 from beyond the arc during four career matchups with the Cavaliers.
Jamison has averaged 21.7 points in his last seven games against the Blazers.