The Thunder and Cavaliers had a playoff-like match-up on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, with each team having moments of dominance in front of a raucous crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Despite the Thunder getting 92 combined points out of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and Carmelo Anthony, the Cavs simply had too much firepower — escaping OKC with a 120-112 victory.
LeBron James led the way for Cleveland with 37 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists — with 14 of his 37 coming in the first five minutes of the third quarter. His scoring outburst put the Cavs up 10 with 7:06 remaining in the third, but the Thunder used a 14-3 run over the next three minutes to briefly take a one-point advantage. Cleveland would re-take the lead shortly thereafter, holding a 91-87 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
With all superstars off the floor to begin the fourth, the Cavs bench went to work — outscoring the Thunder reserves 9-3 in the opening minutes of the quarter. James checked back in at the 8:12 mark with a 100-90 lead, and, despite OKC clawing to within five in the final minute, Cleveland was able to comfortably navigate the final frame with its lead intact.
Paul George led the Thunder with 25 points, Carmelo Anthony added 24, Steven Adams had 22 points and 17 rebounds, with Russell Westbrook tallying 21 points, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds. However, Cleveland shot 16/36 (44.4 percent) from downtown and was able to survive due to that three-point shooting and a massive advantage in bench effectiveness.
The loss drops the Thunder to 32-26 on the season ahead of tomorrow night’s tilt against the Grizzlies. The All-Star break begins immediately after that game — right on time for an OKC squad that’s just 4-6 over the last 10 contests.
51-20: The Cavs bench outscored Thunder reserves by a 51-20 margin. The opening minutes of the fourth quarter was the back-breaker.
51.1: The Cavs shot 51.1 percent from the floor, compared to 44.4 percent for OKC.
11 & 16: The Cavs hit 16 three-pointers at a 44.4 percent clip. OKC hit 11 on 31.4 percent shooting.
51-41: The Thunder won 51-41 on the glass, including 18-10 on the offensive boards. That last stat was buoyed by 12 offensive rebounds for Steven Adams alone.
36-46: The Cavs outscored OKC 46-36 in the paint.
70: The Thunder left nine points at the free throw line, going 21/30 (70 percent) from the stripe.
9 & 9: There were nine ties and nine lead changes.
Thunder Core Four
The Thunder’s core four of Westbrook, George, Adams and Anthony combined for 92 points on 33/71 (46.5 percent) shooting. They dominated basically every touch, with the rest of the team shooting just 7/16 (43.8 percent) on the night.
Their individual lines:
George: 25 pts, 6 ast, 8/19 FG, 5/13 3P, -4
George hit five or more three-pointers for the fourth-consecutive game and led the Thunder in scoring as a product of it. It’s hard to complain too much — he played very well — but you’d like to see him get more than three buckets from inside the arc.
Anthony: 24 pts, 7 reb, 10/22 FG, 3/9 3P, +3
Melo returned from injury and had his best scoring effort since January 20 — the last time OKC faced the Cavs. The numbers are fine and he hit some big/tough shots, no question. However, he shouldn’t lead the team in field goal attempts basically ever. For every big shot he made, it gave him the confidence to take another — which usually doesn’t work out.
Adams: 22 pts, 17 reb, 12 OReb, 2 stl, 8/12 FG, -1
Adams got off to a blistering start, scoring 11 points and grabbing 5 rebounds (all offensive) in the first quarter. He did so on 5/7 shooting and the Cavs looked completely incapable of slowing him down — a trend that continued all night. His 12 offensive rebounds is a new team-record and he was the best player on the floor tonight for OKC. The only problem? After scoring 15 points on 7/9 shooting in the first half, he only got three shots in the second half. Gotta keep feeding the big man.
Westbrook: 21 pts, 12 ast, 7 reb, 7/18 FG, -3
Westbrook shook off a 3/11 first half, going 4/7 in the final two quarters and helping the Thunder keep the game close. He looked rusty to start and certainly wasn’t his normal self — but he only turned the ball over once and was generally effective after a two game absence. He’ll look to continue rounding into form tomorrow night in Memphis.
The Cleveland Bench. The Cavs don’t win this game without the absurd play of their reserves. The Cleveland second unit had four members in double-figure scoring: Rodney Hood (14), Jordan Clarkson (14), Larry Nance Jr. (13), and Jeff Green (10). When you factor in Nance Jr’s eight offensive rebounds — all of which seemed to matter — the new-look Cavs appear quite formidable. Not one player in the Cavaliers’ starting five finished with a positive plus-minus, but the reserves took care of that. Clarkson (+16), Nance (+14), Green (+14), Hood (+8).
Bad Alex/Good Jerami. Alex Abrines returned to earth after a solid performance on Sunday night. He got the start at shooting guard and turned in 0 points on 0/3 shooting in 23 minutes of action. Jerami Grant had 14 points and six rebounds — his third double-digit scoring effort in the last four games.
2Pat Goes Missing. Over the three games prior to tonight versus Cleveland, Patrick Patterson logged 30, 26, and 35 minutes. He hit Memphis for a season-high 14 points on Sunday night — and then drew just 10 minutes of action tonight. Melo was back from injury, which certainly cut into his minutes dramatically….but 10 minutes is a joke. He’s a streaky shooter that was coming off a solid performance — he should have seen more run.
JR Smith. JR went for 18 points on 6/9 shooting from downtown. The Thunder led by seven in the first quarter, but he sank three long balls in the opening frame to eliminate said lead.
LeBron James. There’s not much to say about LeBron James that hasn’t already been said. His 37-8-8 on 12/17 shooting looked easy and he was 9/13 from the floor in the second half alone. Josh Huestis did a decent (?) job on him in stretches but he got whatever he wanted all night. This happens.