The Oklahoma City Thunder took to their home court looking to reverse a two game losing streak since the All Star break. They had the added advantage of playing the Cleveland Cavaliers who had dropped three is a row themselves and were on the second night of a back to back. They wouldn’t be able to get it done though, falling to the Cavs 114-104.
It was a tightly contested first half with neither side being able to obtain any real advantage. Kyrie Irving had it going early and Spencer Hawes gave the Cavs really good minutes at the center spot against Thunder rookie Steven Adams. Kevin Durant was as efficient as ever on his way to 15 first half points on 6-7 shooting and Russell Westbrook – while still on restricted minutes – seemed to find a bit more form, connecting on a couple of mid-range jumpers and a 3 point bucket to close out the half – giving the Thunder the slightest of leads going in to the main break.
The Thunder were sleep walking on the defensive end allowing the Cavs to reel in a number of offensive boards that directly lead to baskets. The Thunder were also careless with the ball as they givfted it to the Cavaliers on 12 occasions in the first half alone.Kyrie lead the way for the Cleveland Cavaliers, showing good aggression but controlled enough to score when he needed to and set up teammates at the right time. He closed the first half with 14pts and 4 ast and was a big reason as to why the Cavs were still close and putting the pressure on the home team.
The second half started a lot better for the Thunder as they forced some tough shots by the Cavs and took full advantage by hitting a couple of big three point baskets early. Durant, Sefolosha and Westbrook all got in on the act and the Thunder managed to stretch the lead to double digits halfway through the third term. Cleveland wouldn’t be denied and wouldn’t go away as they kept it close, working the ball inside and capitalizing on second chance opportunities. It was anyone’s game heading into the last term.
A blistering start to the fourth was just what the Cavs wanted and exactly what they got – outscoring the Thunder 18-10 while hitting seven of the first nine shots. With 8 minutes left, Kyrie Irving hit a wide open three point basket to tie the game up. It gave Cleveland a huge confidence boost leading to Anthony Bennett and Alonzo Gee both making baskets to give the Cavaliers the 90-86 advantage. When Irving hit another very long three (a candidate for a “four” pointer!) it looked as though the Thunder might cough this one up.
And that is exactly what happened down the stretch. Kyrie Irving flicked the switch and created havoc while the Thunder had no answers for Tristan Thompson and Spencer Hawes inside. The Cleveland Cavaliers ended the game in a takeover and left the Thunder with a third straight home loss 114 – 104. It was a massive win for the young Cavaliers who have been inconsistent and struggling for identity. For the Thunder, it is another case of trying to re-establish their continuity.
Westbrook was much better with 24 points and 9 assists, but the Thunder defense still struggled and there were a number of lapses that lead to baskets. Kevin Durant did his best to get the win, just missing out of a triple double with 28pts, 10rebs and 9asts but he was bested by the All Star game MVP from Cleveland. Irving had 31pts, 9asts, 5rebs and 4 stls but more importantly, got the win. This should silence the “Kyrie wants out” rumors for at least a day and raise the debate of whether or not the Thunder are actually better off without Westbrook.
Of course, the Thunder are a much better side with Russ – we all know that, but the adjustment of welcoming him back while also losing Kendrick Perkins means we need to endure a week or so of change. Unfortunately, that has resulted in 3 straight losses at home. The Oklahoma City Thunder will try and rectify this losing streak when they tackle the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, again at Chesapeake Arena.