Oklahoma City and Cleveland are measured by the same bar right now: Do they have a chance to beat the Golden State Warriors?
Cleveland looked a lot closer to that level routing the Thunder 115-92 on Sunday in a nationally televised game. It left Oklahoma City — a top four NBA team — with a lot of questions.
On the other side, this felt like a statement game for the Cavaliers — even if we can say there is a lot left yet to prove. The Cavaliers played well and moved the ball as a unit, going at the matchups they wanted early, such as switching Kevin Durant onto Kevin Love then going right at DK. It was smart. The Cavs looked better than they did against the Warriors a few weeks back on both ends of the court. The Cavs took control in the second quarter thanks to their bench, dominated the third quarter, and cruised to the 23-point win, 1115-92.
The third quarter was the difference in this game, when the Thunder shot 35 percent and were slow getting back in transition. The Thunder’s offensive frustration bled over to the defensive end, where they were sloppy, and soon the game got out of hand. You could see it in the 50-50 balls, which always seemed to end up in the Cavaliers’ hands.
The Cavaliers did that largely without Kyrie Irving, who had the stomach flu and struggled through the first half and was out the second half.
LeBron James had 25 points, 11 assists, and, seven rebounds; while Kevin Love added 29 points and 11 boards. Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Cleveland shot 51 percent from the floor, which is why they pulled away. Oklahoma City struggled defensively against them.
With no Irving, a different “big three” of LeBron, Thompson, and Love combined for 68 points and were a +20 when paired for the game — that small ball lineup thrashed the Thunder.
No game in February (or before the playoffs start, period), means that much. Still, this is a boost for a Cleveland team projected to make the Finals, but one experts wonder about vs. Golden State.