Cleveland traveled to Oklahoma City shorthanded Tuesday night, missing three of their top six players, on the heels of a tough loss to the Toronto Raptors at home. The Thunder needed a win, coming off of two straight losses with Russell Westbrook back in the lineup.
So what happens when you get a hungry Oklahoma City Thunder team, perhaps the best in the Western Conference, give them home court advantage, and match them up with a hurting Cleveland Cavaliers team? Well, a victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers, apparently.
This game was fun for a number of reasons. This was a game in which Kyrie Irving was the obvious star, but also a game in which the Cavs got solid performances from a number of role players. Jarrett Jack finished with 21 points on 14 shots. Gold star for efficiency, Jarrett! Spencer Hawes had exactly the kind of night David Griffin must have had in mind when he brought him to Cleveland. 19 points and 7 rebounds, he is already showing that he can be a really productive player off of Kyrie Irving. If he keeps it up he is going to make himself some money this season.
Tristan Thompson also played a pretty solid game. In 36 minutes he pulled down 11 points and 11 rebounds, but the fun stat is that he had five assists to only one turnover. The turnover came on a dubious charge call, and Thompson was clearly looking to distribute all night. Thompson doesn't have to be an offensive dynamo to live up to being the 4th overall pick. But if he is able to set up teammates and keep the ball moving it becomes much easier to stomach his deficiencies around the rim.
There was a crucial stretch at the beginning of the 4th quarter where Mike Brown went to his bench to give the starters a breather. The Cavs were down by a couple baskets, but Matthew Dellavedova and Anthony Bennett made some nice plays for easy points. When Oklahoma City called timeout to slow things down, it only allowed Kyrie Irving to come back on the court.
This was not good for the Thunder. Irving scored 14 points in the fourth quarter while still looking to distribute. He made a 28 foot three pointer with six minutes left that gave the Cavaliers a five point lead. Things got close again after that, but Jarrett Jack and Spencer Hawes had some big baskets, and Thompson had some big rebounds.
Irving finished with 31 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. He was all over the court and only left it for a couple minutes in each half. This kind of Kyrie Irving makes the Cavaliers a pretty good basketball team. Given the Cavaliers tough stretch of games in the coming weeks, well, they will sure need him.