Two holiday games against the Cleveland Cavaliers are a good barometer for the Thunder. Both short and long term.
The losses show how far Oklahoma City has come in one month. The two losses also show how far the Thunder has to go to evolve into a major playoff contender.
The last time LeBron James faced Oklahoma City, the Cavaliers were so dominant that James played a career-low 17 minutes.
This time, a sellout crowd of 19,136 on Sunday at the Ford Center saw lots of James — dunks and all — a sign the Cavs’ 102-91 win was more competitive than the blowout Thanksgiving Eve in Cleveland.
The Thunder matched James and the Cavs bucket for bucket for one half on Sunday. But James and Co. once again showed a young Oklahoma City team how far it has to go to join the league’s elite. Cleveland’s two wins are two of the three most lopsided since Scott Brooks took over as Oklahoma City coach on Nov. 22.
"We played one of the best teams in the league with one of the best players in the world,” Brooks said. "We gave great energy and great effort. We contested their shots. They’re not just a good team. They’re great.”
A month ago, Cleveland led by as many as 42 points, won by 35 and was up by 34 at halftime, the largest halftime lead in franchise history. Sunday night, James scored 31 points and played 42 minutes. The Cavs needed him this time around.
Cleveland led 52-47 at halftime and was up only 74-70 late in the third quarter before the Cavs went on a late third-quarter run to build a double-digit lead.
Blog: Thunder vs. Cavs