|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|November 11th, 2012|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|6:00 PM CST|
|Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Fox Sports Net Ohio, WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1)|
|Enemy Blogs: Fear The Sword, Cavs: The Blog, Stepien Rules|
|Previous Meetings: None|
|Kyrie Irving||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Dion Waiters||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Alonzo Gee||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Tristan Thompson||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Anderson Varejao||C||Kendrick Perkins|
Cleveland is coming into this game having just blown a 26 point lead against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. That's right, they blew a 26 point lead and lost. It was the third biggest comeback in Suns history.
For those of you who know Byron Scott, this is no surprise. I remember watching him coach several OKC Hornet games where he'd get a pretty sizeable lead and slowly watch it ebb away while the Hornets played a more experienced team. He's really unwilling to make mid-game changes when things aren't working (especially if they weren't working previously), he doesn't mess with his rotations, and he loves his doghouse. All of the above works, but it can also be the recipe for a slow but catastrophic collapse.
There's other reasons for the collapse though. Kyrie Irving and C.J. Miles were both victims of food poisoning, and understandably couldn't keep up the pace as the game went on. Anderseon Varejao was in his first game coming off of a knee injury. And, quite frankly, the Cavaliers just got complacent. Their transition defense was downright horrible. On several occasions, a Sun would roll through a couple of Cavalier players who weren't really expecting him to go to the rim. Additionally, they couldn't really defend the paint, because nobody was willing to provide help defense. Samuels and Thompson aren't true power forwards, and it really shows. This isn't necessarily the Cavaliers' fault, though, as early injuries to Tyler Zeller and Luke Harangody pretty much decimated their core of big men.
Regardless, this should be viewed as a game where the Thunder can really get their transition offense back in gear. The Cavaliers are tied for 3rd in the league when it comes to most turnovers per game, making them even riper for the picking. The Thunder have struggled to get their fast break points really rolling so far, especially with the lack of scoring that's been coming from Russell Westbrook. Kevin Martin also prefers to work in the half-court, and isn't as strong of a finisher as James Harden was. However, with how incredibly atlhletic and long this team is, they should have no problem getting back to their previous swagger.
However, the Cavaliers should be seen as a dangerous team that can compete. While previous matchups like the Pistons and Raptors are mostly toothless from night to night, the Cavaliers are a team with lots of young talent and motivation. As such, they can surprise you and play beyond their abilities. Look no further than their recent win against the Clippers by a comfortable 7 points. According to Fear the Sword, the Cavaliers won that game due to some tremendous hustle on the offensive boards, and fantastic play from Kyrie Irving. Both things happened on that night, along with a tremendous three point shooting effort from Dion Waiters. Irving and Waiters are really a nice scoring duo, especially given that they can both create their own offense and specialize in different areas.
They aren't without their flaws though. Kyrie Irving can turn the ball over a lot, and is averaging 4 TOs a game this season. Dion Waiters isn't too turnover-prone, but he's still a rookie and can be a bit too fearless with his shot selection. Beyond those two, the team has a lot of other weaknesses. Varejao is probably their main bright spot, as he's a solid veteran who plays with tons of energy. But forward Alonzo Gee is shooting 39%, and averaging a mammoth three turnovers, despite his defensive contributions. Tristan Thompson is okay, but he's really thin for his position, tends to foul a lot, and can have some bad shooting nights. Their bench is comparible to their starters. Solid backup guards in Gibson and Miles, but a meh big in Samardo Samuels. It's also worth noting that the Cavaliers' bench isn't very deep, so they'll give a lot of minutes to guys who aren't necessarily doing the best of jobs.
At the end of the day, I could see the Cavaliers winning this matchup, but by all counts and measures, the smart money is on the Thunder. In order for the Cavs to win, they'll need to take advantage of the Thunder's poor perimeter defense and really heat up from three. They'll also need to use their quicker speed to frustrate Ibaka and keep him from scoring open jumpers. Lastly, the team will need for either Irving or Waiters to step up as a closer that can compete with KD. It's a tall task, but I wouldn't put it past them.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 100, Cleveland Cavaliers 96