Cavs 96, Thunder 90
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s loss to Cleveland.
- Too many offensive rebounds. Just way too many. The Thunder allowed the Cavs to scoop up 21 offensive rebounds. That’s one shy of an opponent season high. Had the Cavs converted more of those opportunities, this would have been a blowout. Even though they didn’t, those second chances are deflating for any defense and it told the story of this game.
- I should copy the first nugget and paste it here but replace offensive rebounds with turnovers. The Thunder gave it away 17 times tonight and they led to 18 Cavs points. There’s that deadly duo rearing its ugly head again.
- The Thunder’s lack of free throws was glaring. OKC got to the line just 17 times tonight. That’s like an average night for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That, more than anything, spoke to the team’s offensive passivity. The Thunder launched 24 3-pointers, four shy of a season high, and just never attacked the basket with the regular authority we’re used to.
- Serge Ibaka’s energy from start to finish was great. Or maybe I should say start to the third quarter, because he didn’t play a single second in the fourth. Thunder coach Scott Brooks basically explained it by calling it a coach’s decision. “The last game we had success playing Serge at the 5 and going small,” Brooks said. “But for the most part, for the year, we’ve had a lot of success with Perk at the 5. I chose that matchup. Did it work? Looking back on it, I don’t think it bothered us as much as it looks.”
- If you’re looking to nail Brooks to some nearby cross because he didn’t play Ibaka in the fourth, count me out. The Thunder still had plenty of chances without him. But I will say this. If any big on this team, I don’t care if it’s Ryan Reid, has 13 points, seven boards and six blocks going into the fourth, I’m sticking with him.
- Ibaka brought the crowd to its feet late in the first half when he blocked three straight shots, one by Antawn Jamison and two putback attempts by Alonzo Gee. It ignited the crowd at a time when the score was tied at 47-all. It looked like it would give the Thunder plenty of momentum going into halftime…and then Anthony Parker hit a buzzer-beater to take it all back and pull the Cavs within two at the break.
- Guard Royal Ivey: “We came out kind of flat. We ran through the motions. And we gave them confidence.”
- This loss snapped the Thunder’s 14-game home winning streak. The Thunder is now 17-2 at home. It’s hard to think of a crummier way for it to go down in flames. What am I saying? Saturday night would have been way crummier.
- As I wrote for Saturday’s paper, this game is the reason the Thunder’s veterans are preaching consistency. All that fourth quarter magic is bound to run out eventually. The Thunder had become too reliant on winning games in crunch time. Sometimes, that’s simply not going to work. That’s why the focus is on building good habits now and playing a sound all-around game for 48 minutes.
- Kyrie Irving is special. That’s the best word to describe the kid. At 19 years old, he came into the backyard of the best team in the Western Conference and abused the Thunder for 31 out of 48 minutes. And he made it look easy. His shot wasn’t falling tonight, but he more than made up for an off shooting night by controlling the tempo of the game and routinely setting up his teammates. He finished with nine points, 12 assists and just one turnover. Again, special.
- We were forced to watch some ugly ball early on. Just 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter, both teams had combined for six missed free throws, 13 turnovers and 15 fouls. For the game, those numbers are 16, 31 and 39.
- Two calls that seem to be made with no rhyme or reason by refs these days: goaltending and continuation. James Harden got the continuation on one second-half drive to the basket that was nowhere near a continuation. Not under the new rules. And one of the Cavs players snatched a rebound as the ball was falling off the rim only for it to be wiped out for basket interference. The ball wasn’t even in, above or around any cylinder. It was dang near touching the net. That’s how low it was getting. Consistency please.
- Durant’s set ups tonight were a thing of beauty. He was getting teammates involved all night with lob passes, drives and dishes and kick-outs before finishing with a team-high eight assists.
- Durant’s turnovers tonight were just uggggg-ly. He was giving it away left and right before finishing with a game-high six turnovers. His problem tonight, as it’s been all season, was losing the ball on drives to the basket. He’s handling the ball more than he ever has, but he has reverted back to his early years of getting stripped on drives. He absolutely has to get his hands stronger.
- One of Durant’s turnovers should not have been. Gee was intentionally trying to foul KD at the end of the third quarter and it went uncalled. Cavs coach Byron Scott even signaled for the foul. Gee was all over Durant before the ball came loose, but yet the official swallowed his whistle.
- To the person on Twitter who asked me a few things about Scott, here’s your answers. He said he sold his Edmond home a few years back. And he doesn’t really have time to get out into the city on visits here for road games. But he said he has noticed the city’s development. “Just seeing some of the city, it’s been remarkable. It’s been unbelievable,” Scott said. “We already knew how great the fan base is here from when we played here. I wasn’t shocked when they got a team here because of the fan base. The way they treated us here, it was unbelievable. And, you know, we all wanted to stay. That’s how great the fan base was here. So to see this city continue to grow is great. I’m just happy for the city and happy for the players and the Thunder.”
- Reggie Jackson again showed his athleticism with a driving tomahawk dunk with 8:20 left in the second quarter. Samardo Samuels was a step slow in ending up on Jackson’s first big-league poster. It was a jaw-dropping flash of Jackson’s athletic ability, and I’m not sure why he doesn’t unveil that more. Here’s what I’m sure of. Brooks was much more pleased with the screen RJ set on Omri Casspi to get KD an open jumper on the following possession.
- Of all the highlights in this one, and there were plenty, it was Irving who had the play of the game. Midway through the third quarter, Irving split a double team out by the 3-point line, shook Daequan Cook out of his shoes with a Eurostep once he got into the paint and finished with a no-look dump off to a teammate for an easy bucket. The entire thing was so good and so quick that I’m not sure most fans in the building even caught it. Judging by the lack of any kind of reaction, I’m assuming very few did. I couldn’t help but shake my head.
- It’s sort of a shame that the Thunder never led by more than five. I can see having to have a wrestling match with the Cavs (20 lead changes and 21 ties), because they’re a scrappy group. But for the Thunder’s biggest lead to be just five points? That can’t happen against a team like the Cavs.
- Up next. Charlotte on Saturday.
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