It’s kind of hard to be impressed when you beat a 12-win team in March in almost any circumstance. But I’m pretty impressed by the Thunder’s effort Sunday. Take into account the variables. It was a road game. It was against a bad team, meaning sometimes focus is an issue. It was a noon start time but was Eastern time zone as well as daylight savings, so basically it was a 10 a.m. start. The excuses were certainly there for the Thunder if they sort of mailed in a half, or even a quarter.
Except from the tip Oklahoma City was locked in and put away the helpless Cavs quickly. After one it was 29-14, at the half OKC led by 12 and by the end of the third, the Thunder held a 19-point edge. With only one starter playing in the fourth (Nazr Mohammed), OKC stretched out to a 28-point lead, cruising to a 95-75 win over Cleveland.
There really isn’t anything to nag about. The Thunder took care of the ball (just 10 turnovers), shot 45 percent, allowed only 75 points on 34 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers. OKC made free throws, moved the ball well early (15 assists in the first half) and though the Thunder were outrebounded 54-44, that stat doesn’t really matter because the Cavs hit the offensive boards hard (18 offensive rebounds) because they had a lot of opportunities.
The only bummer to games like this is that Kevin Durant’s scoring average has to take a hit because he sat the entire fourth quarter. KD finished with 19 on 6-12 shooting in only 28 minutes. But games like this are really a blessing because getting to relax and have essentially half a game off is something that’ll be nice on a back-to-back night in March. Same goes for Russell Westbrook (20 points, five assists in 24 minutes). Serge Ibaka didn’t have a problem stuffing the statsheet in limited time though, piling up 10 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks in just 29 minutes.
Taking care of business was the idea and OKC absolutely did that. The Cavs closed OKC’s lead to 10 a couple times in the third quarter, but Westbrook scored on three straight layups, basically sealing the game. He had 14 of his 20 in the third and entirely owned Cleveland. The Thunder overwhelmed the Cavs with talent and really the only shot Cleveland had was if OKC came out flat and unfocused. That didn’t happen and the Thunder buried the Cavs early.
- I really don’t know how it’s possible, but Westbrook was only a +2 in this game.
- The Thunder’s won six of seven with that only loss coming to the Grizzlies. We all thought this would be a good stretch for OKC and it has been. So far.
- Nick Collison sprained his ankle in the second half, so we’ll have to see what his status is for tomorrow’s game.
- Great stat relayed by Brian Davis in this one: Since the All-Star break, Eric Maynor hasn’t had a multi-turnover game. His assist to turn is 43-6 in that span. He had eight assist to zero turns in 23 minutes today.
- Cole Aldrich saw some time early, but quickly picked up four fouls in the first half. I liked his activity late in this game. He played hard until the buzzer, hitting the glass and contesting shots.
- James Harden after the game: “We knew this was going to be a tough game. Their record doesn’t show it, but they have a lot of talent.” That’s a nice thing for you to say James, but what you REALLY meant is, “We knew all we had to do was be at the arena on time. I mean, Anthony Parker is their best scorer and Samardo Samuels starts for them.”
- Another 16 points for James Harden. That’s 12 straight games in double figures.
- Did Westbrook’s dunk in the third kind of surprise anyone else? Seemed like it sort of just happened.
- KD got a technical in the third for saying one, maybe two words. He was pushed on the baseline but called out of bounds and Durant said something and was immediately hit.
- A moment I liked in this game: Daequan Cook fell down on the baseline heading to a timeout in the fourth quarter and KD and Russ immediately ran off the bench over to him to help him up. I just liked that.
- If there was a machine that could accurately tell us any “what if?” for the season, mine would be what if LeBron had stayed with the Cavs. I’m dying to know what their record would be with him on this roster. I’m seriously fascinated by it.
- Noticed Grant Long has been using “painted area” a lot. Channeling Hubie is never a bad thing.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “End of the shot clock, Daequan forced to throw up the heat check there from 3.” At that moment, Cook was 0-4 from 3.
Next up: At Washington Monday.