The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers at home, 120-112. OKC finally stumbled against a top flight team this season after having defeated the Warriors, Cavs, Rockets, Spurs, and Raptors. Unfortunately for the Thunder, a rusty Russell Westbrook was off his game for most of the night and couldn’t counter the new-look Cavs’ re-energized attack.
The Thunder were led by Steven Adams, who finished with 22 points on 8-12 shooting, including a rugged 12 offensive rebounds (17 total). Adams was dominant through much of the game, but unfortunately he got little help and started to wear down at the end. This in part led to Cavs reserve Larry Nance Jr. to match up against him at the center spot, and Nance was a huge difference maker, grabbing 6 of his 8 offensive rebounds in the 4th quarter, which gave the Cavs just enough cushion to seal the win.
Meanwhile, a rusty Russell Westbrook couldn’t take advantage facing off against George Hill, struggled to a 7-19 shooting night and never looked like he had his balance or lift. Carmelo Anthony returned as well and was solid with 24 points on 10-22 shooting, but Paul George couldn’t find the shooting range that had carried him the past few weeks. It is puzzling why he and Adams were not the base offense in this game, as Adams had no peer in the middle and George was being guarded most of the time by subpar defenders.
The loss means that the Thunder, after reeling off 8 wins in a row in January, have now gone 2-6 over their last 8 games. As great as the Warriors win felt, that’s not the sign of a team heading in the right direction.
- I would be less disappointed in this loss had OKC not already lost so many games to lottery teams this year, including two to the Lakers. Jordan Clarkson dropped 18 on OKC wearing purple and gold on Feb. 4th, and then another 14 tonight to key a dominant bench attack.
- It’s time to admit that the Thunder’s free throw woes are going to be a thing throughout this season, and will probably cost them a playoff game (at least).
- This is a game where Andre Roberson’s absence was really felt. While OKC has successfully slowed down the Warriors’ 3-point attacks, they have done it through their ability to close passing lanes and take away Golden State’s high assist ratio. But with LeBron, he can hit any player at any spot on the court from any spot on the court, so it’s less about movement and more about players shifting into soft spots in the defense. OKC made numerous defensive mistakes that left shooters open far too often.
- Alex Abrines ran 23 minutes tonight, which was about 22 too many. I hate to kill the kid, but not only was he awful tonight, but the Cavs targeted him in every single PnR they could. The worst was when LeBron got Abrines to switch on him and, instead of punishing Abrines off the dribble, LeBron forced the double-teams to come, which sprung the Cavs shooters open around the perimeter, leading to their 16-36 shooting night from downtown.
- And yet with all that bad stuff going on, Alex still had a chance to actually make this a 2 point game with 20 seconds to go. Wide open. Not close.
- The loss drops OKC into an abysmal morass with 4 other teams currently below them, all tied in the loss column at 26. The huge missed opportunity means OKC didn’t take advantage of the Spurs’ loss last night or the Timberwolves’ lost tonight. It is not all that far-fetched to think OKC could finish as high as the 3-seed or miss the playoffs entirely. They almost completely have thrown away any significant margin for error.