Preview 46 of 82: Thunder @ Cavaliers
Time: 2:30 PM CT
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (25-20) is in Cleveland for an afternoon match-up with LeBron James and his Cavaliers (27-17). Although both teams are stocked full of firepower, each has experienced its fair share of ups and downs in the 2017-18 season. A win today would be a nice momentum boost for whoever comes out on top.
The Thunder is 5-5 over the last 10 games but comes in having won three straight. It’s been difficult to predict what sort of OKC team will show up on a night-to-night basis, but Russell Westbrook leads the way with 24.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game. Carmelo Anthony has looked more comfortable in his role recently, but Paul George has struggled to find offensive consistency in the new year. It will likely take a cohesive effort from each member of the OK3 (and a lot of Steven Adams) to take down the Cavs.
Cleveland is just 3-7 over the last 10 and losers of four out of the last five. Point guard Isaiah Thomas is just six games into his season after recently returning from the hip injury that cost him the first 38 games. As always, the ageless wonder that is LeBron James will lead the attack for the Cavaliers. The 15-year pro is averaging 27 points, 8 rebounds and 8.7 assists in nearly 37 minutes per contest. Slowing him will be no easy task but the Thunder defense is at least better prepared now than it was a season ago.
Tip-off is at 2:30 PM CT and will be nationally-televised on ABC. Cleveland is favored by 3.5-points at home.
- Iman Shumpert: Out — Knee
Cavs: Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, LeBron James, Jae Crowder, Kevin Love
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Thunder O & D:
Cavs O & D:
The LeBron Factor. Although the Thunder boasts one of the better defenses in the league, there’s a certain amount of leniency that must be allowed when facing LeBron. He’s the best player in the world, one of the two best players of all-time, and gaining strength as this 2017-18 season goes on. Having Paul George and Andre Roberson is certainly a huge help but at the end of the day, it’s LeBron James. Unlike the U.S. government, it’s virtually impossible to shut him down.
LeBron vs PG13. In a match-up that grew familiar in the Eastern Conference over the last few years, Paul George and LeBron will go head-to-head for the first time since George was traded to Oklahoma City. LeBron holds a 30-12 record against George in his career, 14-5 in the regular season and 16-7 in the playoffs. PG13 shows up in Cleveland with more backup this time — but will need to improve his play on the offensive end. He’s averaging just 16.6 points on 40 percent shooting over the Thunder’s last five games.
Cleveland’s Big Three. Cleveland’s big three was more intimidating with Kyrie Irving at the helm, but the trio of LeBron, Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas will certainly get it done on most nights. We’ve already discussed LBJ, but Love is enjoying a fantastic season with 19 points and 9.6 rebounds on 40 percent shooting from long distance. Isaiah Thomas is still rounding into form and has struggled thus far. He will have his hands full defensively with the reigning MVP.
More Melo. Carmelo Anthony has looked aggressive in the Thunder’s last two games, confidently knocking down shots and playing within the confines of his role in the offense. Him locking in and hitting shots will go a long way toward a Thunder victory. Against a team that boasts two of his best friends in LeBron and Dwyane Wade, he will need to fight the urge to put a ton of shots up.
The Cavs Defense. The Cavs enter allowing 108.6 PPG to opponents — 24th in the NBA. Although they score a lot of points offensively (109.4), it will all come down to the Thunder offense. If the team actually runs one, I like the odds.
On the Glass. OKC is the top offensive rebounding team in the league at 12.3 per game. Cleveland allows the seventh-most offensive boards to opponents, 10.4 per game. Steven Adams and his ability to create second-chance looks could and should be a big part of the game today. He’s coming in with three-straight double-doubles and averaging an incredible 5.1 offensive boards per game.
LeBron James is 25 points shy of 30,000 for his career. Russell Westbrook discussed the possibility of him reaching that milestone versus OKC. (Via Royce Young)