The mighty Thunder gave a valiant effort on the road against the top team in the East and come home on the down side; however earning a split on the roadie at 2-2. How’s that for a little sunshine on a rainy night?
I just wrote last night in the recap that I was done with moral victories; that was for last year. I was spoiled by the recent success and I want wins. With that said, I actually need to contradict myself and say that I am not too upset about this and that I was pretty happy with the effort if not the outcome. Does that mean I am taking away the moral victory? I don’t know. Whatever. But either way, Cleveland is one hell of a good team and we did a very good job coming back from 14 down and hitting our stride with that 21-8 run in the third. To be right there with the Cavs on the road at crunch time is better than a win over the Nets at home I say.
Cleveland just amazes me. The sheer amount of talent on that team is hard to get your arms around. I guess if money is no object you can buy whatever you want and Cleveland has signed up tons of quality players. Shaq? Well he is a shell of his former self, but he is still a hog in the paint and he changes shots and has a little mojo. He is still a game changer in his reduced capacity and increased girth. They didn’t have their first or second option at PG because Delonte and Mo were in the MASH unit? No worries, just trot out Boobie Gibson. He can hit some shots as you probably noticed. He doesn’t need to assist on any shots because Lebron does all of that. Big Z, Varajao, Parker, it’s just a bit mind boggling.
I think the big picture view of the game however was defense. The Thunder and the Cavs are both top five defensive teams in the association depending on how you want to measure it. They are both tied for league best at FG% allowed with 43.6%. The teams are number 4 and 5 in points allowed per game. The Thunder are number 4 in defensive rating and Cleveland is number 6. The Thunder are number 1 in eFG% allowed and Cleveland is number 3. Yet tonight Cleveland held the Thunder to 38% on field goals and 41.3% eFG, while themselves shooting 49% on field goals and painful 58% eFG. The Cavs got it done defensively and the Thunder didn’t.
The little things matter and this game could’ve been had. The Cavs left the door open for us to steal by shooting a ridiculous 50% from the free throw line and committing 17 turns. But the Thunder couldn’t even get a third of their shots to fall in the fourth quarter after some brilliant play in the third.
- I was really cringing watching James Harden trying to defend Lebron in the fourth. I know for a fact that Harden watched the Lakers/Cavs on TNT on Thursday because he tweeted about it. How could he forget that Lebron was just unbelievable with that three ball in that game. Then tonight when getting screened by Shaq he chooses to go under the screen to defend Lebron? Lebron splashed a big wide open three to give Cleveland back the lead at 85-84. You don’t go under the screen on a great shooter, he will pull up and bury the open shot.
- I was truly shaking my head in the first quarter listening to Bryan Davis and Grant Long. Here we are shooting 2/12 and down by like 10 points and they are talking about how the “Thunder came to play” and how “the Thunder are really dictating the tempo of the game”. Wow. You are getting your butts handed to you on a platter and these guys are smoking the Peyote bud.
- As I mentioned above the Thunder did a brilliant job of cobbling together a comeback in the third. They shot 54%, had an 11-4 rebounding edge with no turns. Krstic actually was rather effective with 7 points and 3 boards while getting thrown to the ground about 4 times by the Diesel.
- Thabo played some good defense on Lebron on a few possessions that I noted, but overall, the King was in his element and wouldn’t be denied. He still shot nearly 50% and had 12 assists, 9 boards and a bucket full of points. Meanwhile the team was -12 when Thabo was in the game….
- When you are getting handled, your mind tends to wander. For me I thought I would watch Byron Mullens exclusively and see how he dealt with Z and Shaq ( or rather how he would get dealt with). Mullens only got 5 minutes, but he made two nice defensive plays. The first was when a Cavs wing tossed up a jumper, Mullens got out in front of Shaq and boxed him out very well and grabbed the rebound. Then a bit later he was behind Shaq when Shaq was getting an inlet pass into the post. Mullens got on Shaq’s right side and deflected the pass and got the steal. He also got a wobbly jumper to fall. Not bad. Had it been me, I think I might have given him some more run and see how the Cavs would try and deal with his shooting touch. He can sink the jumper and Shaq doesn’t like to cover out of the paint.
- We didn’t get much out of the bench tonight. 17 points on 16 shots. Ibaka did have 7 boards and Harden was 6/6 from the line.
- Jeff Green was pretty inefficient offensively tonight with 11 points on 14 shots; but he was +4.
- Kevin Durant was Kevin Durant. He’s so good.
- Russell was pretty good tonight. It would have been a different game if that last jumper would have rattled in instead of out.
- Serge finally got away with one of his Euroleague in the cylinder tip ins that he gets called for all the time.
No games till Wednesday. Get back to the gym boys and work on the fundamentals.