The absence of LeBron James, sidelined with a sore left knee, proved to be less of an issue than anyone thought: guard Matthew Dellavedova, averaging a hair over three points per game, started at small forward and dropped in four of five treys, contributing a great deal toward the collapse of what once was a 20-point Thunder lead. With 2:00 left, the Cavaliers had pulled to within four; back-to-back buckets from Kevin Durant, though, stretched the lead back to eight, and the Cavs would see no more daylight. Final: Oklahoma City 103, Cleveland 94.
King James was missed, yes, but it’s not like the Cavaliers were way outmanned: no team with Kyrie Irving really can be. (There were some anxious moments on the Cleveland bench late in the second quarter, when Irving came down hard on a knee; but he was back after halftime, good as new.) To go with Irving’s 20 points, Cleveland also had Kevin Love, 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Tristan Thompson, 14 points and 13 boards. (Cavs outrebounded the Thunder, 48-48.) Add fourteen points from Dion Waiters and fourteen more from the aforementioned Matthew Dellavedova, and here’s a team that can play with the best even without that James fellow.
But that James fellow is a formidable shot blocker, and in his absence, OKC shot 44 percent and 7-26 on the three-ball, most of which came in the fourth quarter. KD, right on top of his time limitation at 30:07, chunked in 19 points; Russell Westbrook checked in with a game-high 26 on 12-24 shooting, eight assists and seven rebounds. Steven Adams collected 10 boards. It was another weird night for Serge Ibaka, who fouled out in just under 26 minutes: he scored seven and blocked two shots, but grabbed absolutely no rebounds whatsoever. Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow contributed two dozen points between them.
Tommorow night in the Twin Cities: the 9-13 Thunder versus the 5-16 Timberwolves. You kind of figure both of these teams would be doing better than that. Then again, they could be 1-2 in the division, or 14-15 in the conference, and they’d still go at it with hammer and tong.