The Oklahoma City Thunder (6-4) held on for their sixth straight victory on Wednesday night in Cleveland, defeating the lowly Cavaliers (1-10) 95-86 in a game that did not include Russell Westbrook. Dennis Schröder led the way for the Thunder with 28 points. Paul George contributed with 18 points (7-of-16 shooting) but looked to be a bit out of sorts all night.
The young philosopher Thumper once said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” With that being said, the opening quarter was one of the more uninspiring 12 minutes of basketball I can recall. Cleveland just doesn’t have the playmakers to generate easy scoring opportunities — and OKC’s playmakers couldn’t do it either. Both teams combined to shoot 35.4 percent from the field, as OKC led 23-20 after one.
The second quarter was not any easier on the eyes as both teams continued to struggle finding their groove offensively. Hamidou Diallo was able to provide a spark with 8 points in the quarter, including a pair of dunks out in transition. The Thunder closed out the second quarter on a 9-0 run, capped by George’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. The Thunder took a 48-40 advantage into the break.
The Thunder were able to build on that run into the third quarter, as it stretched to 17-0 after Schroder scored five straight points. OKC’s lead ballooned to 56-40 with 10:19 remaining in the third. The Cavs immediately answered with a 20-9 run of their own, as JR Smith’s three-pointer cut Cleveland’s deficit to 5 points with 4:28 remaining in the quarter. The Thunder took a 71-64 lead into the final frame.
Kyle Korver’s three-pointer gave the Cavaliers the 80-78 lead, capping a 16-2 run for the Cleveland with 7:02 remaining in the final quarter. The Thunder pulled away for good with a 11-2 run after Schroder’s runner attempt was called for a goaltend by Tristan Thompson. The goaltend gave the Thunder a 94-86 lead with 43 seconds remaining. Despite its unpleasantries, the Thunder come away with a 95-86 road victory without Westbrook.
Westbrook sits: Westbrook was forced to sit out tonight as he recovers from the sprained left ankle he suffered on Monday night vs New Orleans. Billy Donovan replaced Westbrook with Dennis Schroder in the starting lineup, alongside Terrance Ferguson, George, Jerami Grant, and Steven Adams. Westbrook is expected to be evaluated on a game-by-game basis, and his status for Thursday night’s tilt against Houston has yet to be announced.
No Señor: The Thunder struggled offensively in the first half. Scoring only 48 points on 40.8% FG/20% 3P/62.5% FT — a shooting line Thunder faithful have grown far too accustomed with. With OKC desperately in need of offense, Alex Abrines was unable to capitalize on his open looks. Abrines finished the first half with only three points on 1-of-6 shooting, converting on only one of his five three-point attempts in the opening half. In total, Abrines recorded 9 points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field.
Schröder So Sweet: Schröder led the way tonight for the Thunder, scoring 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He also chipped in seven rebounds, one steal, and one block. Schröder was unable to record any assists, however. The German point guard was in control throughout offensively, attacking the point at will and getting out in transition.
Nerlens-ergy: His box score isn’t always pretty, but Nerlens Noel continues to bring the kind of energy that the Thunder so desperately crave. Noel recorded four blocks and two steals off the bench in his 13:32 minutes of action. Getting stops, creating turnovers, and getting out in transition is the longtime OKC blueprint. Noel will continue to be a big piece of the puzzle with his relentless motor.
Taking Care of Business: It sure wasn’t pretty but ugly wins are always better than moral victories. Even without their MVP, this was a game that the Thunder couldn’t afford to let slip away. The Cavaliers are in a race to the bottom of the league, missing their lone All-Star Kevin Love. OKC was able to take care of business and stretch their winning streak to six games — which is ultimately what matters.