It's the second night of a back to back for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the way they are playing, they might want to just ride the wave and keep playing. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company come to Cleveland riding a six game win streak. They are playing at a high level, and they are playing with a lot of confidence. A year removed from missing the playoffs entirely following injuries to each member of their top three players, including getting just 27 games from Durant, they are healthy and looking like a championship contender.
No one is calling them the favorites. The Warriors and Spurs are currently playing in a different stratosphere. The Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to exhibit some of the signs you'd expect from a title contender, and they're doing it before the return of Kyrie Irving. The Cavs and Thunder, at the moment, seem to be on a tier just below San Antonio and Golden State. It isn't hard to imagine either holding the Larry O'Brien trophy, so tonight presents an intriguing match-up of East and West powers.
And I mean, come on. Kevin Durant. LeBron James. Russell Westbrook. Kevin Love. Matthew Dellavedova. You're going to watch this before getting in line for Star Wars.
Who: Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, Ohio
TV Listings: TNT
Enemy Blog: Welcome to Loud City
What to watch for with Oklahoma City
Who do the Thunder find that completes their go-to lineup? Westbrook-Durant-Serge Ibaka-Steven Adams is straight fire, a perfect mix of creation and defense and athleticism that can just break teams. But who is going to play shooting guard? Since trading James Harden, the answer has changed repeatedly. The Thunder have Anthony Morrow, Andre Roberson, and Dion Waiters. All do different things but have certain deficiencies.
Morrow is a lights out three point shooter to space the floor for Westbrook and Durant drives, and gives a great outlet for drive and kicks. Roberson is an elite defender that makes Iman Shumpert look like an offensive savant. Dion Waiters is ... the exact same player you remember. He's third in minutes played for the Thunder, despite coming off the bench which he seems to have made peace with. His defense has improved, a bit, but his shooting still remains problematic. He has toned down his usage quite a bit, another adjustment he should be praised for, but it hasn't paid off in terms of efficiency where he is still well below average. Is Waiters good enough? That will play a big role in just what type of season this ultimately ends up being for Oklahoma City.
What to watch for with the Cavs
Well that being healthy thing sure was fun. Still no Kyrie Irving, and the Cavs have announced that Iman Shumpert will miss tonight's game with a groin strain as well. The Cavs should be well rested, but might actually be undermanned against the Thunder. Will Cleveland be able to match the Thunder's athleticism? Shumpert would have been a big help in this game. Timofey Mozgov could have a big role in tonight's game. Westbrook in particular will just attack relentlessly when playing a team without a real rim protector. If the Cavs can use Mozgov effectively, the damage Russ does can be mitigated a bit.
What type of game LeBron James has is interesting to me as well. As well as James has played, he's joined in the MVP race by Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard and ... Kevin Durant. This is a nationally televised game, and it's the opportunity for James and the Cavs to potentially make a statement ahead of the Christmas day showdown with the Warriors. If the Cavs win this one, excitement and hype for the Christmas Day game will take on a life of its own. Well, it'll probably do that anyway.
Star Wars is tonight
I'll be watching that at midnight. Go Cavs.
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