Cavs (22-36, 8-21 road) vs. Thunder (43-14, 23-5 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.6 (6th), Cavs – 102.4 (24th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.6 (4th), Cavs – 107.4 (18th)
Pace: Thunder – 95.3 (9th), Cavs – 92.9 (21st)
The message after these first two games back from the break has been simple: Ease up, don’t panic, it’ll take time. But lose tonight, at home, against a bad Cavs team, and calming anyone down could be tough for the next few days.
This game is generally seen as a chance for the Thunder to get right a bit, namely Russell Westbrook, and start feeling good again. But the Cavs have played some of their better basketball the last few weeks, and with a couple of additions to the roster, present at least some resistance. Naturally, there’s Kyrie Irving, fresh off an All-Star Game MVP, Luol Deng, a multiple-time All-Star, as well as a few other capable players.
The larger point, though, is to win. Do that first and foremost. Playing well comes after that. Because in this case against the Cavs, the two things don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
Three Big Things
1. Start fast. Remember last year’s game in Cleveland where the Thunder let the Cavs hang around all night before Irving finally roasted them in crunchtime? Yeah, don’t do that again. Put the Cavs in a hole early and force them to make shots.
2. No Perk. He didn’t play Sunday, but it’s official for now that Steven Adams is OKC’s starting center for the next six weeks or so. And the numbers for the new starting lineup aren’t pretty, as in a -22.4 per 100 possessions. The sample size is small — 82 minutes total — and the teams Adams has started against have all been pretty good. His matchup tonight though is awkward, because Spencer Hawes is a 3-point shooting big man. Good chance Adams plays limited minutes in this one as OKC goes small most the night.
3. Russ. He’s got a difficult matchup across him tonight. But more than that, it’d be nice to see Westbrook get back to doing a lot of the things he does. Get a few midrange looks, get to the rim, setup others, play with energy. The minute restriction is awkward, but you’ve just got to work around it right now.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Win Again.