Russell Westbrook was a “game-time decision,” they said, and given the fact that Cleveland would be missing both Luol Deng and Kyrie Irving, Westbrook’s absence was virtually guaranteed. Easy win, you might think. And then with the Thunder up 2-0, the Cavs took over, and maintained a lead halfway through the second quarter; OKC went on an industrial-strength run (19-8) to close the half with a ten-point lead, which they padded to 24 points halfway through the fourth. But Cleveland then went on a 16-0 streak, pulling to within eight. A clearly irritated Scott Brooks had begun reinserting the starters he’d pulled, but it didn’t stanch the bleeding: at 1:12 the Cavs were down only five, and OKC held on for a 102-95 win despite missing three of the their last free throws.
Second-year shooting guard Dion Waiters proved to be a powerhouse, collecting 30 points and three steals; if he could hit free throws (he went 6-12) this thing would have been a lot closer. Spencer Hawes knocked down 20 points; rookie point guard Matthew Dellavedova led the bench with his first career double-double (11 points, 10 assists). The Cavs moved the ball pretty well (27 assists), but trailed badly on the boards (53-36) and blocked no shots.
As is usually the case in Westbrook-free zones, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka had to supply most of the offense. Durant had 35 points for the night, along with 11 rebounds and six assists; Ibaka had 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. For a change, Jeremy Lamb got some serious minutes (26), during which he scored 10, second only to Derek Fisher (12) among the reserves. We also saw the second appearance of Mustafa Shakur, who went scoreless in two minutes before the starters began filtering back in.
So that evens up the Cleveland series, 1-1. Next up: the Raptors, who lead the Atlantic division by dint of, well, playing like a division leader the past few weeks. The Thunder will have to beat them to even up that series, 1-1. Westbrook will almost certainly start. I’m making no bets on the finish.