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Thunder vs Cavaliers Preview: OKC face tough road test in Cleveland

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The Thunder have beaten some of the best teams in the league at the Peake this season, now they must prove their metal in front of a hostile Quicken Loans crowd.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder travel to Quicken Loans Arena to face the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in a nationally televised Saturday matinée on ABC at 2:30 p.m. cst.

After kicking off the season with some new faces and a shaky 3 and 5 start, something Thunder fans can relate to, the Cavs went on a 21 and 4 run that included a 13-game winning streak in their next 25 outings. That run set up a big showdown with Cleveland’s opponent in the last two NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors, on Christmas Day.

The Cav’s dropped a 7-point heartbreaker in a mid-season thriller that was much MUCH closer than the final score indicated. The score was tie 92-all with just under 2 minutes remaining, but, unfortunately for Cleveland, the game swung in the Warriors favor when #35 was not whistled for clearly fouling LeBron James, not once, not twice, but three times in the waning minutes.

The NBA’s inane two-minute report served only to prove, once again, how poorly the NBA utilizes readily available technology and how critical it is for the league to install a system that would allow teams to call for a review on critical game-changing plays.

Coming into this match-up with the Thunder, the Cavs have dropped 7 of the 10 games they have played since Christmas but it is critical for OKC to remember that Cleveland is still the odds-on favorite to repeat as Eastern Conference champions according to and led by the best player on the planet, LeBron James.

Here are two interesting Advanced Stats for the human calculators out there to ponder and discuss in the comment section while you're letting the game-time chili simmer; Effective Possession Ratio and Opponent Effective Possession Ratio. The Thunder leads the NBA in both. EPR - 0.977, OEPR - 0.929

The calculation for the stat is quite simple, (possessions + offensive rebounds - turnovers) / possessions. Basically, EPR tells us how good a team is at generating shots and OEPR tells us how well a team prevents opponents from doing the same. What it doesn’t tell us is how good those shots are or how many of them are actually going in.

The Cavaliers currently sit in the 23rd EPR spot (09.44) and rank 27th in OEPR (0.965).

Obviously, considering both teams current records, EPR is not the stat to end all stats, but it is nice being the best at something positive.

Injury Update

The only player Rotoworld is currently listing as out for Saturday’s game is Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert, but that should not have much of an effect on the Cavs.

Per Rotoworld:

Shumpert isn’t going to have a big role when he returns with Dwayne Wade, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver all healthy, and the Cavs may shop his contract at the deadline.

Thrilled Thunder fans welcomed Andre Roberson back after missing 8 games with patellar tendonitis. Robes élite defensive prowess has been a given for some time now, but his real value was a constant source of debate until the Thunder’s disappointing 4 and 4 record during his absence settled the matter once and for all.

Roberson isn’t hampered by any minutes restrictions, but in lieu of his recent status upgrade, trainers and coaches will be on high alert for any signs of fatigue as Robes regains his game legs.


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