It was a lackluster night for the Cleveland Cavaliers as they fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-120. Let’s break down what happened.
Defending Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is no easy task. It isn’t easier when your best point-of-attack defender, Isaac Okoro, is on the bench due to injury.
SGA lit up the Cavs for a hyper-efficient 43 points on 15-22 shooting from the floor. His attack on the basket was relentless, scoring the majority of his points in the paint or from the free throw line. Just take a look at this ridiculous shot chart from the first half.
Shai's Shot Chart in the first half....— Fear the 'Fro: A Cleveland Cavs Podcast (@FeartheFroPod) November 9, 2023
This is like a guy who stole the test, and then left one question blank to throw people off the scent. pic.twitter.com/vnApZmsCe0
For the Cavs, it was Caris LeVert who dragged them to within range of a late comeback. LeVert scored 29 points while working his way to the free-throw line 16 times. His aggression was about the only good thing Cleveland had going offensively in this game.
Coming up short
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.
The Cavs had defensive issues that plagued them all night. But it was their careless turnovers on the open floor that cost them the most. Darius Garland matched his career-worst with 8 turnovers while the team finished with 20 errors overall.
This, combined with a 9-of-29 (31%) shooting night from downtown led to a hole the Cavaliers couldn’t climb out of. They stayed in striking distance for most of the game, cutting the deficit to five at one point, but they were always one stumble from falling right back down the hole.
Well, that happened…
I mentioned Garland’s disastrous night and it was the most frustrating part of Cleveland’s loss. He’s had an uncharacteristic start to the season, committing 24 turnovers to just 27 total assists so far. On top of this, Garland is a combined 2-of-15 from deep to start the year.
The Cavs rely heavily on Garland to provide elite playmaking and timely scoring each night. Without him playing at his best, this team is going to struggle. Expect Garland to gradually return to form as he gets his legs back under him. After all, this was only his fourth game of the season.
In other news, Garland joins LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant and Julius Randle as the only players to commit 8+ turnovers this season. So, at least he is in good company...
This is not the opening to the season Cavs fans had hoped for. Cleveland is 3-5 with a difficult game on the road versus Golden State coming up next.
Still, this team is inevitably going to rack up wins at some point. Their previous win over the Warriors was just as representative of the Cavaliers’ talent as this loss to OKC.
The Cavs are a good team looking to be great. It isn’t happening overnight but there are 74 games remaining for them to hit their stride.