Thunder (28-19, 12-13 road) vs. Cavaliers (31-14, 20-5 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 2:30 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.9 (17th), Cavaliers – 109.5 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.3 (9th), Cavaliers – 106.2 (18th)
I’ve never understood the appeal of hitting something hard when you are frustrated. It’s completely counterproductive in my opinion. At best, you damage in inanimate object, be it a chair, a wall, or an equipment manager. At worst, you do what Enes Kanter did to himself and injure yourself. I’ve never seen any one hit something out of frustration and come back galvanized.
What Kanter did was stupid. It was immature. It was reckless. What it wasn’t, was malicious. This wasn’t Kanter trying to throw a wrench into any possible plans the Thunder may have had to trade Kanter before the trade deadline. It was an accident. One that could have been prevented, but an accident nonetheless. I don’t think it warrants a fine or a suspension. Kanter knows what he did. And he knows he hurt the team in doing it.
Kanter was recently interviewed about his mistake, and this is what he had to say, “Of course it’s like a really sad thing because like, I mean because you’re letting your teammates down when you make a mistake like that. I mean your coaches down and stuff. But the only thing you can do is just, you know, you learn from it. The one thing you know I wish we could go back [in] time and then I could take it back. But mistake happens and we just got to learn from it and control your emotions.”
It was contrite and it was truthful. No one feels worse about this than Kanter himself. To ere is human. Don’t forget of all the erring you did at 24 years of age. He’ll learn from this, and he’ll be better because of it.
Season Series Recap
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Thunder and Cavaliers. The Cavs swept the season series last season, winning a close one at home and blasting the Thunder on their floor.
The Cavaliers come into this game with a 31-14 record, having won just just 3 of their last 9 games. The defending champs seem to be in a bit of a malaise in the past few weeks. LeBron James is chirping at the front office for more help, and the others around the Cavs’ big 3 are under performing. To me, this may be the point where James’ reach may be tested within the organization. He realized his promise last season by bringing a championship to Cleveland, but the Kevin Durant signing in Oakland may have triggered the realization in James that a second title may not guaranteed. James, ever the pragmatist, knows he’s getting older. And he’s been referencing that a lot more in his interviews lately. He knows his prime has an expiration date and he wants to get as many championships as he can before that date is reached.
But Cleveland’s front office has to draw a line in the sand at some point. Cavs GM David Griffin has done a masterful job building this team around James. And he hasn’t rested on his laurels either, getting Kyle Korver from Atlanta for two end of the bench veterans just a couple weeks ago. But at what point does Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert look at James and say, “Hey, you have everything you need out there. You made it work last season. Make it work this season.”? It’s definitely a story that needs watching as the Cavs head into the trade deadline and into the offseason after that.
Enes Kanter (forearm)
3 Big Things
1. Defending the Big 3
James. Kyrie. Kevin Love. It’s all about keeping those three in check. Andre Roberson will probably draw James, but look for Jerami Grant to get some time on James also. Russell Westbrook has never done a great job of guarding Irving, who usually gets around Westbrook with ease and kills the Thunder from the paint. Westbrook will have to do a much better job of defending Irving for the Thunder to have a chance in this game. While it would probably be best to put Steven Adams on Love, rookie Domantas Sabonis will likely draw the assignment on Love. The rookie is probably the best option to defend Love, as Joffrey Lauvergne would get lost on the pick and roll and someone like Kyle Singler would be too small to handle Love in the post. Remember what Love did to Durant during a critical 3 minute stretch in the third quarter in what was Cleveland’s blowout win against the Thunder on their home floor. When Durant switched on to him, Love just took him into the post and scored on what felt like three straight possessions, basically putting the game out of reach for the Thunder.
Tristan Thompson always seems to have big rebounding games against the Thunder. When it feels like the Thunder are about to make a run, here comes Thompson grabbing an offensive board that leads to a back-breaking three. Especially with Kanter out, the Thunder will have to be very cognizant of where Thompson is at all times.
3. Bench Recalibration
For the past month and a half, the bench’s offense has almost entirely been run through Kanter. The ball would go into him and he would make the decision on what to do based on what the defense presented him. Single cover, and Kanter would back his man down. Double team and Kanter would find the open man. It’s been an evolving scheme that was starting to pay dividends. But know with Kanter out, where will the offense come from the reserves? It likely means, Victor Oladipo’s time on the court will be staggered so he can be on the court with the reserves. It probably also means that Steven Adams time will also be staggered so he can help the bench out from time to time. The wings off the bench will all have to step up, especially Cameron Payne. If he was uncomfortable running an offense where he didn’t have the ball in his hands most of the time, well now is his time to shine. He seems to be coming around, so hopefully he’ll be able to pick up some of the slack left by Kanter’s absence.