After getting back into the win column, the Cleveland Cavaliers face a more formidable test against the Oklahoma City
Westbrooks Thunder. For a Cavs team that ranks dead last in transition defense, this game will test their focus and effort as they try to slow down one of the league’s most deadly transition players.
Who? Oklahoma City Thunder (28-19) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (31-14)
When? 3:30 PM
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? ABC
As with all afternoon games, I expect sloppy play early on from both teams. Early starts always seem to throw players off as their routine gets changed up. What happens from that point on should be very interesting. The deficiencies of this Cavs roster have received plenty of attention lately, but beyond the changes that are needed, effort and execution have been the most notable absences over this rough patch.
I would imagine that Iman Shumpert will get the Westbrook assignment to start the game. As previously mentioned, the transition defense will be a key factor heading into this game. Despite their struggles this season defensively, the Cavs still are one of the best half court defenses in the league. It’s their dead last transition defense that has caused much of the bleeding this year.
While the Thunder don’t have shooters you need to worry about in transition, their system is to box out for Westbrook and allow him to initiate the fastbreak quickly off of any misses. Westbrook is a force of nature and containing him is never an easy task. But by getting into position quickly and picking him up in transition, you can force him to settle for bad shots or try to force the issue at the rim. Westbrook averages a eye-popping 5.6 turnovers per game. We know that he does almost everything for this Thunder team, but if the Cavs can keep his assist to turnover ratio low, it will bode well for them finding success on Sunday.
The Thunder also rank sixth in offensive rebound rate as a team. Against a Cavs team that is 19th in defensive rebound rate, this could cause some issues and buy the Thunder the extra possessions they need. The Thunder try to wear you out with their relentless attack both on the boards and at the rim. The Cavs will need to show discipline they’ve lacked both defensively, and on the glass to prevent the Thunder from getting extra chances.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction.
I think the Cavs shake off a slow start and come away with their first quality win in awhile. Kyrie Irving usually has big games against the Thunder, especially on national TV, so I expect him to go at the defensively deficient Westbrook all afternoon. This is a win the Cavs really need and I think the second half against Brooklyn showed a Cavs team starting to regain their chemistry. Cavs win 108-99.