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Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant lead Thunder past Cavaliers

by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 13, 2011

CLEVELAND — It’s almost a shame what has happened here.

The loss of one player, a figure locals loved like royalty, has removed so much of the spirit that once pumped life into Quicken Loans Arena and made it one of the league’s toughest venues.

The excitement in these parts is now long gone, and so is every shred of competitive advantage the Cleveland Cavaliers owned just a short time ago.

And the Oklahoma City Thunder took no pity, wasting little time in pouncing on what is now the league’s worst franchise.

After five straight years of flaming out in this building during the LeBron James era, the Thunder finally conquered the Cavs, embarrassing them 95-75 on Sunday. It was the franchise’s first win at Cleveland since March 2, 2005, when the team was located in Seattle.

Since then, the Thunder/Sonics had lost by an average of 20.2 points over the past trips to Cleveland, the closest defeat being a one-point margin here last season.

“They’re a whole different team now,” said Kevin Durant. “So it was a little different.”

A little? Try a lot.

Sunday showed just how far the Cavs (12-53) have fallen while also illustrating how far the Thunder (42-23) has come.

On the day before Thanksgiving two years ago, the Cavs trotted out a pubescent boy as part of an in-game skit. Before the final buzzer had sounded on OKC’s eventual 35-point drubbing, the boy had fans doubled over at his one-liner about how he was thankful for not having to watch the Thunder every night.

Then, the Thunder was on its way to a 23-win season and the Cavs were headed for a franchise-best 66 victories.

This go-round, the announced crowd of 19,811 sat in relative silence as James’ riveting dunks had been replaced by three blown slams by his replacements. The closest fans got to some of James’ old chase-down blocks were rejections by Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, whose seven swats came one shy of tying his career-high.

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