Rubio returns and Cavaliers down struggling Blazers 119-113

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, looks up at the clock while being defended...
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, looks up at the clock while being defended by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)(Craig Mitchelldyer | AP)
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 9:50 PM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 26 points, Ricky Rubio played in his first game since a knee injury more than a year ago, and the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 119-113 on Thursday night.

Damian Lillard had a season-high 50 points, but it wasn’t enough for the Blazers, who lost their fifth straight.

Jarrett Allen added 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers’ fifth win in their last seven games.

Portland led by as many as 14 points early in the game and had a 91-87 lead going into the final quarter.

Lillard’s 3-pointer from 29 feet put Portland up 102-97 with 7:11 left, but the Blazers couldn’t hold the lead. Jarrett Allen’s layup cut the margin to 104-103 and Mitchell’s jumper gave the Cavs their first lead of the game with 4:40 to go.

Anfernee Simons hit a 3-pointer to tie the game, but Mitchell and Evan Mobley made consecutive baskets and the Cavaliers pulled away.

Rubio finished with nine points in 10 minutes. The 32-year-old tore his left anterior cruciate while driving to the basket at New Orleans on Dec. 28, 2021. He averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 assists in 34 games last season before getting hurt.

The Cavaliers had listed him as questionable on the pregame injury report, but he came in off the bench with 3:38 left in the first quarter.

“I’m just being honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been around a guy who has the spirit that Ricky has, that teammates just want to be around and be a part of. It’s extremely unique,” Cavaliers coach B.J. Bickerstaff said before the game. “There’s not a selfish bone in his body, everything he does, he does just to help everybody else.”

Lillard appeared to struggle with a sore ankle early in the game. He remained in the contest, but at times appeared to be in pain.

Despite that, Lillard had 25 points in the opening half and Portland went into the break with a 58-51 lead.

Rubio’s 3-pointer got the Cavaliers within 74-70 midway through the third quarter. Jerami Grant answered with a 3 for the Blazers.

Another Rubio 3-pointer closed the gap to 82-77 as the Cavs kept the margin at single digits.

TIP INS

Cavaliers: It was the second and final meeting with the Blazers this season. Cleveland routed Portland 114-96 earlier this season.

Trail Blazers: The team announced that Nassir Little has had on-court contact activities after a hip injury in December, but there’s no timeline for his return. Justise Winslow continues to improve from a left ankle sprain, but will miss at least the next two weeks. ... Lillard has four games this season with 25 or more first-half points.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: Visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

Trail Blazers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.