Two days after the Cleveland Cavaliers gave up a big road lead, and fell to the Phoenix Suns, the Cavaliers faced a very tough test at the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are the team that staffs like Cleveland's are trying to build: a small-market team that has found success building through the draft and making small, but crucial, additions along the way. This success was almost taken to the ultimate, with a trip to the NBA Finals last season.
The Cavaliers came out ready to play, taking an early 15-7 lead, but the talented and experienced Oklahoma City team began to turn up the defense, and that led to offensive production. After the Thunder reclaimed the lead, the Cavaliers did well to fight back. They were able to close the gap to as close as three in the third quarter. It looked like it would be a one possession deficit heading into the final period, but Russell Westbrook hit a ridiculous half-court shot to take a six point lead, which was extended for 106-91 win over Cleveland.
It was another game where Cavalier fans saw some good things from their team. Going up against the Western Conference champion on their home court, Cleveland played very good basketball at times. The problems came with 12 turnovers and being outrebounded 41-36. While Kyrie Irving scored 20 points and had five assists, he also had four turnovers, too many for the man who dominates the ball. Alonzo Gee had a nice game, scoring 18 points, as did Daniel Gibson, who had 16, 11 in the first half.
Other than that, the Thunder's defense shut down everything else for the Cavaliers. Serge Ibaka had seven blocked shots and Westbrook has four steals to lead the defense.
Offensively, Oklahoma City was led by their superstars. Westbrook had a game-high 27 points, including 4-for-6 from three-point range, and Kevin Durant had 26. The Thunder also had 16 points off the bench from Kevin Martin, who was the main addition in the trade that sent James Harden to Houston.
While it is disappointing to see this team lose this game, and give up the big lead they had against the Suns, it is clear there is promise for this team. While things have not quite come together yet, there are good signs. Cavaliers' fans will not just want to see signs, unless they start turning into wins. Hopefully that will start to come, as Cleveland closes out this long road trip in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
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