It was whole new Cleveland Cavaliers team than the one Oklahoma City put 148 on just a few weeks ago. This time, the Cavaliers came into Chesapeake Arena and hit 16 three-pointers, as Cleveland beat the Thunder 120-112. Behind a great shooting night for Cleveland, was LeBron James who maybe played one of his best games of the season.
LeBron put up 37 points in this one, and had the home crowd dropping their jaws with some of the shots he hit. He was special in the third quarter, as he put up 17 points hitting from absolutely anywhere on the court.
Cleveland was hot from deep for much of the game, especially early. They hit five three-pointers in the first quarter, and was able to maintain that shot making for most of the night. JR Smith led the way, as he finished with six makes from deep, finishing with 18 points on the night.
It was LeBron’s greatness, though, that was the story of the night. His ability to get to the rim and find open shooters is amazing to watch. He had the Oklahoma City defense scrambling for answers all night. As Cleveland put up 120 points, they did it shooting 51 percent from the floor, with 24 total assists.
“LeBron had a big third quarter, but I thought our guys battled and fought,” Billy Donovan said.
“But I thought the big part of the game, there was some rebounds and loose balls we did not come down with,” Donovan continued. “The second chance points for them in crucial time, was big for them.”
Cleveland was out-rebounded by Oklahoma City, but it was the second chances the Cavaliers got late in the game that were back breakers. Cleveland finished with 16 second chance points, in big part due to Larry Nance crashing the offensive glass.
Thunder’s big four had solid nights offensively, especially Steven Adams who was the thorn in the Cavaliers side all game long. He put up 22 points while also grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds. In those 17 rebounds, 12 of those were offensive rebounds, also a career high for Adams. Adams was arguably Oklahoma City’s best player in this game.
Westbrook and Carmelo returned to the lineup tonight after missing the last two games due to ankle injuries. They both showed some rust, while Westbrook was the one that struggled the most. He never seemed to get into a rhythm offensively, and hit just seven of his 19 shot attempts. He still managed to finish with a near triple-double, with 21 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. He also just had one turnover on the night.
The big difference in tonight’s game, though, was each team’s depth. After the trade deadline, this Cavalier team was totally revamped. It is now one of the deeper teams in the league, and the bench unit tonight was much better than the Thunder’s.
Cleveland got a huge lift from their bench, 51 points coming from their reserves. Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood led the way with 14 points each.
On the other hand, the Thunder’s role players left a lot to be desired. It was a totally different story than when these last two teams played. Outside of Jerami Grant, Oklahoma City really had no step up to help with the offensive load. Grant scored 14 points while the rest of the guys outside of the big four combined for six points. All six of those points came from Felton, who had two makes from deep early in the game.
Abrines finished with zero points on 0 for 3 shooting in 23 minutes played. Huestis and Patterson also went scoreless.
The Thunder have a lot of talent, but they will definitely need consistent play from their role players if they expect to go deep into the playoffs.
Oklahoma City now will travel to Memphis and play the Grizzlies on a second night of a back to back. It is their last game before the All-Star break this weekend.
Keys to the game
Defend the three: F
The Cavaliers have been on a tear with their perimeter shooting since the trade deadline, and tonight was no different. They killed the Thunder from deep all game long and it ended up being the difference maker in tonight’s game.
Win the glass: A
Steven Adams was an absolute monster, and gave Cleveland something to worry about if these teams somehow meet up in the finals. Oklahoma City out-rebounded Cleveland 51 to 41, while bringing down 18 offensive boards.
Role players, step up: D
Outside of Grant, the role players disappeared tonight, and were just way worse than Cleveland’s. Thunder have some big wins over some of the best teams in the league, in part due to their play from their role players. Tonight we saw what can happen when you do not get the plays you need out of the role guys.
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