If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.
The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):
• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.
• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.
• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.
• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.
• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.
• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.
• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.
• Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.
• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.
To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.
For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.
It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.
Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.
This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.
Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?