It does not pay to misunderestimate 14-23 teams, especially on your own home court. Byron Scott has spent lots of time here — he was the coach of the Hornets during their two-year sojourn in the Big Breezy — and he arguably has a better feel for the place than most Eastern coaches, which may explain why the Thunder never could quite put this one out of reach. Then again, neither could the Cavs until the last couple of minutes, when Cleveland went on a 14-5 run to close out the Thunder 96-90, only the second OKC loss at the Downtown Roundhouse this season.
Or you might look at the night before last, when these same Cavaliers sneaked out of Denver with a 100-99 win over the Bumpy Lumps, and you might reasonably conclude that their prayers are being answered, and the answer is Kyrie — rookie guard Kyrie Irving, who got that dunk with four seconds left in Denver, and who made his mark in an arena he hadn’t seen before by rolling up nine points, 12 dimes, three steals, and only one turnover. With Irving doing the ball movement, Antawn Jamison was left to do the heavy lifting, which he did: 21 points and eight boards, though it must be said that A. J. put up rather a lot of bricks.
The Thunder, in fact, actually outshot the Cavs by seven percentage points, but Cleveland got 15 extra chances at the net, thanks to utter dominance on the boards: 51-40, 21-8 offensive. And the three guys who got 91 points against the Suns Wednesday — well, obviously, the whole team didn’t get 91 tonight. For the record: Kevin Durant 23, Russell Westbrook 19, James Harden 15. It was another case of too many tries from too far away: 24 treys attempted, six made, none in the second half. Everyone in Scott Brooks’ 10-man rotation showed up on the minus side, though the range was only -1 to -5. And not even another mighty Serge Ibaka performance — 13 points, seven boards, six blocks — was going to save the Thunder tonight.
The intangibles for tomorrow: it’s the second half of a back-to-back, where the Thunder have been doing well most of the season, and it’s against the Bobcats. Then again, look what happens when you take the likes of Cleveland, um, cavalierly.