On the (potential) eve of Kyrie Irving's return -- and missing Mo Williams and Iman Shumpert as well -- the Cavaliers reached back to May to find a familiar formula to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Cleveland.
LeBron James scoring. Tristan Thompson rebounds. Rinse. Defend. Repeat.
After a quick shooting start from LeBron (began 2-2 from 3), Matthew Dellavedova, Richard Jefferson, and.... well anyone but Kevin Love really, the game settled into a series of offensive and defensive streaks for both sides. The Thunder went up 12, The Cavs answered with an 18-0 run. The Thunder responded with a 7-0 run of their own heading into the half, and rode a 31 point 3rd quarter to a 78-74 lead going into the 4th.
The Cavs would flip the switch in the 4th. Using a 24-11 run in the first 7 minutes of the period to build and hold a double digit lead until the Thunder made a furious rally late. With 6.7 seconds left -- after Tristan Thompson threw his potential game sealing rebound off of LeBron's chest -- Russell Westbrook would see his game tying 3 bounce off the rim, and LeBron James would secure victory for the Cavaliers.
The Cavs were led by 33 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists from James, and 12 points and 15 rebounds (11 offensive) from Thompson, and 13 points in 32 big bench minutes from Richard Jefferson. The Thunder got 27 points from Kevin Durant, 25 and 10 assists from Russell Westbrook, and 23 from Serge Ibaka. Former Cavalier Dion Waiters was 1-7 for 4 points off the bench.
The bigger story, unfortunately, is the health of golfer Jason Day's wife Ellie. Seated courtside, she was unable to dodge a hard charging James as he chased a loose ball in their direction. After taking the full force of James landing on her, she was taken from the area on a stretcher with her head stabilized. Obviously we are all hoping there is nothing serious, and this was precautionary.
- Jared Cunningham didn't show up huge in the box score, but his contributions to begin the fourth quarter were a massive find for David Blatt. He struggled handling the ball, but his defense and a timely three were part of a huge Cavs run that helped turn the game in their favor. He replaced a struggling JR Smith, who never returned.
- Blatt also left centers Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao on the bench for the bulk of the second half, after neither was particularly effective in their first half minutes. Instead going to Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson at the 5, which was very successful. The search for Mozgov's groove -- he posted 0 rebounds tonight in 20 minutes -- continues. The general ineffectiveness of both is somewhat disturbing.
- Kevin Love really struggled with Serge Ibaka all night and was mostly invisible, but came through when the Cavs needed him most. Love had a 4 point play and 3 pointer late in the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers will host the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday afternoon at the Q. Kyrie Irving might be back. We'll see you then.