Coming off a thrilling victory on the road against the Brooklyn Nets, the Cleveland Cavaliers will welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder to town for the home opener at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Thunder went to Chicago in their last game, blasting the Bulls 124-104. They will get a tougher test against the Cavs.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse - Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Oklahoma
Oklahoma City Thunder Blog: https://www.welcometoloudcity.com/
Expected Cavs Starting Lineup:
Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Max Strus, Evan Mobley
Cavs Injury Report: Jarrett Allen (ankle, OUT), Ricky Rubio (Personal, OUT), Dean Wade (Illness, QUESTIONABLE)
Expected Thunder Starting Lineup:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren
Thunder Injury Report: Jaylin Williams (Hamstring, OUT), Kenrich Williams (Back, OUT)
What to Watch For
The Thunder, like the Cavaliers, have a dynamic backcourt that is relied upon for scoring pressure. Shai Gilegous-Alexander and Josh Giddey are as fun as they come, especially the former from a scoring perspective. Giddey is a super-sized guard at 6’8” and can give opposing guards fits, while Gilgeous-Alexander is a maestro with the ball in his hands. The two pair very well with a blend of shooting and playmaking, combined for 47 points against the Bulls. Cleveland also has its duo in the form of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, both potent scorers from anywhere. They paced the offense against the Nets with a combined 54 points of their own while shooting with pretty good efficiency. The real question will come down to the defensive side.
Cleveland just let Cam Thomas go bonkers with 36 points off the bench. Ben Simmons and Spencer Dinwiddie are not the offensive threats that Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey. With Jarrett Allen out, Evan Mobley will have to stick closer to the rim, taking him out as a perimeter defender. The Cavs will have to clamp down on the defensive end to prevent Oklahoma City’s guards from taking over.
Mobley and Holmgren are two of the most exciting young bigs in the league, and getting to see them go head-to-head will be very interesting. Holmgren is a more traditional stretch big while also being a very smart defensive rim protector. Mobley is a better defender overall, but does not have the same offensive skillset as Holmgren. Mobley only had 11 points against the Nets, but Nic Claxton is a stout defender, so that had to play a part. Holmgren had a better matchup against Nikola Vucevic and the Bulls. But he also hit two three-pointers, demonstrating the range.
Holmgren’s ability to stretch the floor, unlike Claxton, could spell issues for the Cavs' interior defense. Getting Mobley out of the paint makes things easier for the big guards to get to and finish at the rim. With the expected return of Dean Wade, the Cavs could deploy him as their stretch big to force the Thunder to rearrange their defensive strategy.
One Stat to Watch
Board at work
The Cavs were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league last year, something they attempted to rectify with the signings of Damian Jones and Tristan Thompson. But with the absence of Allen, getting rebounds is that much more difficult. After one game, the Cavs are once again in the bottom three in terms of rebounds while the Thunder are 21st in the league. It is one game, but Oklahoma City has Chet Holmgren down low and taller guards who can get rebounds. Jones did not collect a rebound against the Nets in 11 minutes and Thompson did not see the floor. In fact, Max Strus led the team in rebounds last game with 12 (Mobly had six, for what it is worth).