Streaking yet wounded, the Oklahoma City Thunder visit Cleveland this afternoon for an anticipated showdown with the Cavaliers.
Much has changed for these franchises since the 2016 offseason. Simply put, Cleveland looks a year older and further removed from an unlikely NBA Championship run.
Meanwhile, amid monumental overhaul, Oklahoma City has outperformed seasonal expectations, yet now must continue minus key contributor Enes Kanter.
During the Thunder's third-consecutive victory Thursday, Kanter slammed his hand down in frustration, fracturing his right ulna, and perhaps OKC's earned momentum in the process.
This afternoon’s contest will pit a re-grouping Thunder unit vs. a frustrated Cavaliers squad. Cleveland’s lone win in a trying four-game stretch came Friday against the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets.
Following lackluster results pursuant to a trade for veteran Kyle Korver, perhaps LeBron James’ deceleration of his team’s need for a reserve point guard was apt.
At any rate, Oklahoma City must continue to keep doubt fresh within the reigning league standard bearers’ psyche this afternoon from Quicken Loans Arena.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (28-19 #6 W.C.) vs. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (31-14 #1 E.C.)
- Time: 3:30 PM ET
- Venue: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
- TV: ABC
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Stifle Cleveland’s perimeter shooting
- Force LeBron’s hand as a scorer, while keeping his assists down
- Pressure the Cavs’ shaky defense
- Westbrook must carry the day
- But Russ needs plenty of offensive help
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Today’s inter-conference meeting vs. Cleveland would have provided an optimal setting for Enes Kanter’s considerable offensive skill set. However, in the reserve maven’s absence, Oklahoma City must now discover ways to generate points opposite a potent Cavaliers offense.
Though struggling, Kyrie, LBJ, and company sport an elite 20-5 home record. Furthermore, the Cavs still easily rule the Eastern Conference roost. While unheralded units such as New Orleans and Sacramento have recently stunned Cleveland, the battle-tested champs will enjoy favorable odds against OKC’s unsteady rotation.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS AND INJURY REPORT
The Oklahoma City Thunder list Enes Kanter (forearm) out. The Cleveland Cavaliers list J.R. Smith (thumb) as out.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
- Shooting Guard: Iman Shumpert
- Small Forward: LeBron James
- Power Forward: Kevin Love
- Center: Tristan Thompson
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER +8
The Thunder are considered as prohibitive underdogs for today’s showdown from the “Q.”
As stated, Oklahoma City has an uphill battle to outgun a Cleveland collective that ranks amongst the league’s top-five in both OffRtg and three-point efficiency. This discrepancy only heightens when considering the Cavs’ home hegemony and point-output at Quicken Loans (113.5).
Along with a sensational Westbrook performance, Roberson, Adams, and Oladipo must combine with an offensively-challenged bench to produce ample scoring bursts. The key to victory for OKC resides in shots made, and stout three-point defense.
The Thunder is 12-13 on the road. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers boast a 20-5 home record, however, are only 10-8 this season vs. Western Conference opposition.