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Cavaliers vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Cavaliers vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer



Cavaliers (39-14, 16-10 road) vs. Thunder (40-15, 25-6 home)

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 2:30 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.9 (2nd), Cavaliers – 106.9 (4th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.6 (10th), Pacers – 100.9 (7th)

Here’s the reality of their situation. There’s likely an extremely slim chance the Thunder catch up to Golden State or San Antonio in the Western Conference standings. But if the Thunder have visions of grandeur and plan to make to the Finals, they still have the opportunity to secure home-court against the Cavs. That is where the importance in this game lies.

Series History

This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Cavs. The Cavs won the first meeting 104-100, behind a pair of runs (18-0 in the 2nd and another in the beginning of the 4th) that kept the Thunder at bay all night long.

The Opponent

The Cavaliers come into the game with a 39-14 record, having won 4 in a row. They seem to finally be putting it all together with the return of all their players from injury (Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Iman Shumpert). LeBron James is having another great all-around season, posting 25 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. Irving appears to have found his rhythm in the last few weeks and is averaging 26.8 points per game in his last 5 games. Kevin Love, who was rumored to be on the trading block this past week, remains with the club. JR Smith and Matthew Dellavedova give the team two floor spacers who are shooting 40% from deep this season. Tristan Thompson continues to be one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. New acquisition Channing Frye will not be available for today’s game.

3 Big Things

1. Perimeter Defense

Where the Cavs beat you is not with LeBron and Kyrie. It’s with the shooters on the outside that wait for those two players to attack the paint and suck in the defense. If the Thunder get too carried away with LeBron and Kyrie, then Love, Smith, and Dellavedova may find themselves open for a lot of shots.

2. Tristan Thompson

Thompson was a one man wrecking crew the last time the Thunder played the Cavs. He was probably one of the main reasons why Cleveland was able to mount, not one, but two runs that saw them vanquish double digit deficits. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams need to make it their mission to keep Thompson off the offensive glass, and also prevent his rolls to the basket for uncontested dunks.

3. Foul Trouble

One of the things that limits Durant in these games is the threat of being in foul trouble. James knows that against Durant, he can drive it inside and force the contact. Durant is going to have to learn how to defend James, without fouling him. But that, likely, is a task easier said than done.

Thunder Killer

Kyrie Irving – Irving has been in the rhythm for the last few weeks and has that Damian Lillard look about him. Since February 1st, he’s averaged over 26 points on 39% shooting from deep and 53% shooting overall. That’s from a point guard. He’s killed the Thunder before and could possibly do it today.