The LeBronless Cavaliers earnestly lost nine of their first ten games, and being without Kevin Love isn’t the sort of thing that helps. Still, longtime Thunder watchers were murmuring “Trap game, trap game,” and they got louder in the fourth quarter when the Cavs took an 82-80 lead. Wasn’t going to happen, though, and if this is only the second time in NBA history that an 0-4 team won the next six, well, a W is a W no matter how it looked. The role of Russell Westbrook was played by Dennis Schröder, and if he had an unWestbrooky line — 11-19 shooting for 28 points, no treys (three attempted), no assists, and seven rebounds, all defensive — he does seem to take well to starting. And once Alex Abrines delivered a trey to reclaim the lead, the Thunder slid back into lead-management mode and won it 95-86.
Interestingly, only one Cav — backup center Ante Žižić — rolled up 10 points and nine rebounds in not quite 17 minutes, becoming the only Cleveland player on the plus side of the scale. The guy who started where Žižić ended, Tristan Thompson, had the only double-double for either side, not counting the bucket he scored for the Thunder on a goal-tend. The Cavs did not shoot well, at 37 percent, but the Thunder turned in a prosaic 42, and Cleveland outrebounded OKC 51-44, not an inconsiderable achievement.
If there was anything horribly wrong here, it’s that this is the first leaf of a back-to-back, and nobody among the starters got much rest: Paul George was out there for 38 minutes collecting his 18 points. And Houston, the Thursday-night foe, doesn’t figure to be a patsy. Do not expect Westbrook back, though: the more you see of the moment his ankle hit the floor, the worse it looks.