From Russ’ patented gallop off the opening tip til the final horn blared, the Oklahoma City Thunder stayed one step ahead of the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.
And just like that, OKC earned a signature 118-109 victory while dressing the stage for Saturday’s anticipated revelries.
Opposite an exhausted Cleveland troupe, the man of the hour, Russell Westbrook, finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists to garner triple-double #26 of his accomplished campaign.
Westbrook’s all-around production was bolstered by Victor Oladipo (23 points), Steven Adams (20 points, 13 rebounds), and Cameron Payne (season-high 15 points).
Overall, Oklahoma City owned the glass 51-35, while forcing Cleveland to commit 16 errant turnovers. The Thunder further depleted the Cavs’ weary legs with precise ball movement — garnering 24 assists on 50 made baskets.
In a statement performance, OKC exhibited renewed grit opposite a Cleveland team they had only recently been mastered by.
Meanwhile, for the Cavaliers, a visibly frustrated LeBron James repeatedly flailed in exaggerated theater as Andre Roberson’s harassing defense limited “The King” to 18 points on 42/25/33 shooting.
Kyrie Irving (28) led all Cavs in scoring. Kevin Love (15 pts, 12 rebs), Derrick Williams (12) and Kyle Korver (3-of-3 FGA, 8 pts) unsuccessfully attempted to resucitate Cleveland’s cause.
With the loss, the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak has ended. It must be noted, however, that Cleveland was playing on the second night of a back-to-back set — and third game in four nights.
Undoubtedly, the Cavs (36-16) will now enjoy a well-earned day of rest. The Oklahoma City Thunder has won three of four, and improved to 31-23 on the season.
- Cameron Payne’s season high 15 point performance: The maligned reserve guard came through in the clutch tonight, nailing 6-of-12 shots, and 3-5 3PA.
- Victor Oladipo: Dipo’s 23 pts, seven rebs, three assists, and two steals —plus solid defense— helped keep threatening Cleveland at bay.
- Steven Adams: The ‘Big Kiwi’s’ added offensive game is imperative for OKC’s success. Adams’ footwork seems to improve with each passing contest.
- Andre Roberson’s two-way play: The ‘low-key MVP’ was just that tonight. Roberson routinely forced LBJ into uncomfortable shots, and hounded Kyrie Irving on several occasions. Additionally, Roberson contributed eight points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. This man deserves All-NBA Defensive honors.
- Oladipo? and Westbrook’s fourth-quarter dominance: Russell had help tonight. Together, the thunderous backcourt added 20 pts and four assists in a crucial fourth-quarter showcase.
- Alex Abrines: Abrines mashed on Tristan Thompson for his only two points of the night.
- Personal Fouls: The Thunder roster was hampered by committed fouls. As a result, the Cavaliers (23-30 FTA) kept the game close from the charity stripe.
- Turnovers: Westbrook (7) and Adams (4) became a bit sloppy with the ball.
- Three-point attempts: Though OKC connected on eight shots from deep, 27 attempted threes is a bit much for this roster.
Star of the show
Cameron Payne. The Thunder has won of late with stifling defense, and a rotating door of creditable bench performances. Payne’s 15 points kept the energy high while Westbrook sat. Now we just need consistency from Payne.
Following this redeeming win, OKC tied its season series 1-1 with defending Champion Cleveland.
Next up for the Thunder is a much-anticipated Saturday home date with Kevin Durant and his Golden State Warriors.