Mar, 9, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) looks to pass the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) and small forward Alonzo Gee (33) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

OKC Thunder (4-2) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-4) Preview


The Oklahoma City Thunder will look for their fourth straight win tonight as they host the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7 p.m. EST.

The Thunder most recently won both games of a back-to-back in Chicago on Thursday night then at home vs. the Detroit Pistons Friday night.

Kevin Durant has been steady this season averaging 22.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game but it has been the emergence of Serge Ibaka recently that has helped OKC the most.

Ibaka scored 20 or more points in consecutive games for the first time in his career Thursday and Friday night. He had 21 points and nine boards vs. the Bulls then a career-high 25 points and seven boards vs. Detroit.

Ibaka is shooting 56.3 percent from the field on the year. He has been the best on catch-and-shoots as the pick-and-roll man scoring 0.95 points per possession. He is shooting 50 percent on midrange jumpers and is shooting 72.7 percent on shots at the rim.

Russell Westbrook is off to a slow start for OKC and he will have the tough task of staying with second-year point guard Kyrie Irving tonight. Westbrook is shooting just 36.4 percent from the field this season but is averaging 7.7 assists per game while turning the rock over just 2.7 times.

Irving is off to a great start averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 assists per game. Irving is second in the league scoring 0.92 PPP on isolation plays and he is third in the league scoring 1.02 PPP on pick-and-roll plays.

The Cavaliers rely on the pick-and-roll for 26.18 percent of their offense and are 11th in the league scoring 0.87 PPP on those plays. The Thunder know their focus starts with Cleveland’s pick-and-roll but OKC is just 17th in the league so far defending the pick-and-roll.

Another key contributor for the Cavs is rookie Dion Waiters who has been a pleasant surprise starting alongside Irving, averaging 16.7 points per game and shooting 53.3 percent from downtown. Waiters has made 8-of-9 spot-up threes so far this season.

The Thunder have been great rebounding on the defensive end so far this season as they are 5th in the league in defensive rebound rate. Cleveland is 9th in the league in offensive rebound rate thanks mostly to Anderson Varejao who is averaging 14.0 rebounds per game this season with 4.6 of them coming on the offensive end.

Varejao is also one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the league and the Cavs are 5th in the league defending the pick-and-roll so far this season. OKC gets most of their offense from the pick-and-roll but if they can find alternative ways to get offense vs. Cleveland, they should be in good shape since the Cavs are 29th overall allowing 0.97 PPP this year.

It’s no secret that the Thunder have one of the best home crowds in the NBA and they play their best basketball there. They’re shooting 49.7 percent at home compared to 43.3 percent on the road and their assists-to-turnover ratio 1.30 at home compared to 1.03 on the road.

OKC is favored tonight but the Cavs snuck up on them and beat them in a similar setting last season. The Thunder remember that meeting though and don’t want to let that happen again.

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Oklahoma City Thunder

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