Cavs Preview Game #45: Thunder at Cavs

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Oklahoma City Thunder (24-19) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (33-11)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Saturday, January 23, 2010
7:30 PM EST

When I was planning for the lottery to split up Cavs group season tickets, I marked this game down as my top choice.  The Thunder have an exciting young team paced by superstar 21 year old Kevin Durant.  While it may not receive comparable hype, the LBJ-Durant matchup is just as exciting as the LBJ-Kobe matchup we saw on Thursday.  Those who watch the NBA closely have considered Durant must see tv every night but the national wave of attention has really started to swell.

Durant has scored as least 25 ppg in 17 straight games – a record for someone his age.  It’s hard not to like Durant as a player and Chris Ballard in this week’s Sports Illustrated had a nice bio which portrayed him as a kid who loves to play ball but has an exceedingly strong work ethic.  Teammate Nick Collison was quoted in the story as saying

“It’s kind of refreshing, someone with that much talent and ability…all he wants to do is play basketball and hang out.  He’s not trying to rule the world or become a global marketing icon – he just wants to play ball.” 

Hmm,  it could be read  that Collison had a particular someone in mind when making that general contrast. 

Projected Starting Lineups

Oklahoma City Thunder:

-G Russell Westbrook (15.7 ppg, 7.4 apg, 5.0 rpg, 16.03 PER)
-G Thabo Sefolosha (5.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.21 spg, 9.31 PER)
-F Jeff Green (14.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, .436 FG%, 13.03 PER)
-F Kevin Durant (29.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 36% 3P, 24.44 PER)
-C Nenad Krstic (8.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .73 bpg, 13.81 PER)

Key Reserves: Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, James Harden, Eric Maynor

Injuries: DJ White (out), Nick Collison(probable)

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-G Daniel Gibson (5.6 ppg, 0.9 apg, .483 3P%, 11.57 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (7.3 ppg, 1.7 apg, .477 3P%, 9.79 PER)
-F LeBron James (29.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 7.8 apg, 31.47 PER)
-F JJ Hickson (6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.4 bpg, 13.06 PER)
-C Shaquille O’Neal (10.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 16.52 PER)

Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jawad Williams

Injuries: Mo Williams (out), Delonte West(out), Jamario Moon (out), Leon Powe (out)

Team Efficiency Stats

Oklahoma City Thunder:

-Off (98.2 ppg, 43.3 rpg, .456 FG%, 19.4 apg, 15.7 TOpg, Eff-102.8, Rank-21)
-Def (95.6 ppg, 40.9 rpg, .436 FG%, Eff-100.3, Rank-5)

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-Off (100.9 ppg, 42.2 rpg, .483 FG%, 21.5 apg, 14.6 TOpg, Eff-108.1, Rank-5)
-Def (94.5 ppg, 37.8 rpg, .436 FG%, Eff-100.4, Rank-6)

Previous Matchups

  1. Cleveland 102 at OKC Thunder 89 – 12/13/09 [box ]

Future Matchups


Game Notes

Tonight’s game would be a real test for the Cavaliers even if the team was at full strength.  With Mo and Delonte both out, the offense will be a work-in-progress with Daniel Gibson running the point.  LeBron will have to carry the burden created from the injuries to both primary ballhandlers.  The Thunder guards, Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha, are both big and physical and Gibson will have  his hands full on both ends of the floor.  I imagine Westbrook will go right at Gibson on the offensive end in combination with the Thunder’s heavy reliance on isolating Durant.   Reserve guard Eric Maynor torched us when he was with the Jazz last month.

I think newly signed Cedric Jackson may have to see the floor because of the dearth of available ballhandlers and guards.  He will be undersized as well against the Thunder backcourt in whatever limited time he may see.  Anthony Parker must have an efficient game on offense and try to combine with Boobie to fill some of the scoring void created by Mo’s absence.  We cannot afford to have Parker disappear on the offensive end or be any kind of defensive liability.  Matching up against Sefolosha should not be that onerous a defensive assignment for AP.

The Thunder lack a true power forward and presence in the paint (in their starting lineup-Collison/Ibaka combo can fill in off the bench).  Both Durant and Jeff Green are stretch forwards who typically create offense facing the hoop and outside the paint.  Durant is obviously dangerous from everywhere shooting nearly 48-36-87% for the season.  Either Durant or Green will present a mismatch for JJ and I expect Andy to receive heavy minutes tonight, as he always does, for defensive purposes.  Lebron will guard Durant in crunch time or if Durant starts to go off and put the game in doubt.  Durant’s main weaknesses exist in his TO rate and on the defensive end but you can pretty much mark him down for at least 25 every night.

The lack of a true PF means that the Thunder do not have a dominating presence in the paint.  Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka can provide effective minutes but I still expect the Cavs to try and score a majority of their points in the paint and at the rim.  This means pounding the ball into Shaq who should be able to take advantage of Nenad Krstic.  Lebron needs to focus on driving to the hole and scoring at the rim.  There is no presence  on this team that can stop him or challenge him in the lane.  Lebron went off for a then season-high 44 last against OKC last month and he will need to provide a similar effort tonight.

I think this is a near 50-50 game because of the injuries.  Mo was such an important factor in the big win month dropping in 22 on Westbrook and the Thunder backcourt.  One mitigating factor is that the Thunder are coming into town on a back-to-back after a final shot loss by Rudy Gay in Memphis last night.  They should be road weary but also looking to steal a game from the depleted Cavs who always have the bulls-eye on their backs – in particular with a young team that is ascending up the standings and looking to make a statement.

Vegas Line

Cleveland –8
Over/Under 189

Next Game For The Cavaliers

Monday, January 25, 2010
7:30 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat

AP Photo: Sue Ogrocki

  • Scott

    Here’s hoping this one puts Shanoff’s Durant-for-MVP campaign where it belongs.

  • phil m

    It’s Boobie Time, one way or the other. Will Gibson take control in his starting role, or will he disappoint? This game should provide an answer, even if not definitive.

    About the global marketing icon on the make, I tend to think that in every game LeBron needs to “focus on driving to the hole and scoring at the rim.” Is this ever NOT a good strategy?

  • Brendan

    Always a good strategy. It should be particularly fruitful tonight due to the opponent.

  • Jaythetruth

    Green is getting some good minutes.

  • Denny

    Austin Carr makes me miss JVG as the color guy. He’s horrendous.

  • PayDaMan

    Jawad Williams had 9 points in the first quarter

  • MattC

    Mo looks so disappointed to be sitting on the bench. Gotta feel for the guy. Lovin the gooseneck though, good show of team support without being obnoxious or cocky about it.

  • PayDaMan

    Lebron giving up the shot in favor of the boobie pass for a 3 was pure leadership. That was Lebron telling Boobie that he has confidence in him to make 3s and he made it. Lebron makes his teammates so much better.

  • DCBucks

    Miss 20 FTs and you don’t deserve to be an NBA team. 17 turnovers I can understand.

  • Oppie

    What a block!!!

  • PayDaMan

    1 rebound away from the Triple Double. Dang

  • Jaythetruth

    A W 4 A M V P


  • MattC

    Great to see LeBron trust a teammate at the end of the game – really great. I was waitin for the same old charge up the middle or fadeaway 3.

    Awesome game and a tough win. I was gonna post in here at around 8:00 to go in 4th quarter that this was shaping up to be a Bobcats-style loss. For a second there, I was thinking my unspoken prediction was gonna come true. I’m glad I didn’t jinx us.

  • PayDaMan


  • Denny

    I liked the block and also liked the other things that made the win happen.

    Free throw shooting was about the only thing as horrendous as AC’s game calling though. O-M-Jeezy.

  • MattyFos

    Why doesn’t Lebron guard the other teams players? He played off of Kobe the other night and only guarded Durant at the end. Wouldn’t we want to use his size and speed against the other teams best?
    Is it just me, or does it seems like AP is shooting and missing a lot lately?

  • MattyFos

    @ paydaman

    A Win 4 A MVP (that’s how I read it)

  • MattC

    I’ve told friends over games that our unreliable free throw shooting is going to cost us a big playoff game before it’s all said and done. I mean Shaq’s bad FT shooting is a given, but it sucks we have so many other average and unreliable free throw shooters.

  • Merrick

    @ MattyFos

    Not sure exactly why LeBron doesn’t guard the teams’ best all game, but I think one of the reasons is the wear & tear of it. If he were to run around chasing Durant all night, he’s be worn down on the other side of the court, where we need him (IMO) more.

  • Denny

    @ Merrick – I agree, especially right now with Delonte and Mo out. If we had more consistent offense I’d like to see his offense/defense focus more balanced. But right now we need the points.

    Also, let’s all head-bob during when people chant “MVP” at us. That was a bit much, for me. Then again, I live in DC and know nothing.

  • Scott #2

    Boobie with no dimes at the point…

  • Anthony

    I think someone told Fred and Austin about the free trial of League Pass, and they thought people were excited about it because they got to listen to Fred and Austin. :(

    And like Kevin, I like to watch “Dennis the Menace” and Jenga smackdowns and going to the mall to check out girls and eating at the Cheesecake Factory. Can u say BOMB.COM.

  • boogeyman

    @15 Glad you “liked” the performance by the leading All-Star vote getter and defending MVP but I LOVED it – don’t hate appreciate!

    As for the backcourt yea I smell trouble unless Delonte West can get back very soon. I just can’t stand Daniel Gibson no matter how much I try even after he hit that big three pointer and proceeded to act like he was the man. I loved hearing his pregame interview in which he said he wasn’t going to go out and try to do things he couldn’t do and he was just going to play to setup teammates and the rest – zero assists speaks for itself. This guy is so overrated I can’t even begin to convey it.

    P.S. Austin Carr is great to listen to but I wish Fred McLoud would sprain his tongue. I still want Michael Reghi back, always will!