With two and a half minutes to play and trailing 84-85, Byron Scott took a timeout to settle his young team. The Cavs had played hard the entire evening but the Western Conference leading Thunder had taken control and were looking to push their home winning streak to 15 games.
The next three plays looked something like this:
Kyrie Irving layup, Cavs up 86-85, 2:14 to play.
Kyrie Irving layup, Cavs up 88-85, 1:37 to play.
Antawn Jamison layup (Kyrie Irving assists), Cavs up 90-85, 1:07 to play.
Irving’s final line was 9-12-6-3, Antawn Jamison led the team with 21, and Alonzo Gee finished with 12 points and 8 boards. Kevin Durant finished with 23-8-8 and Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 4 assists for the Thunder, who dropped to 17-2 at home.
Some random thoughts on what turned out to be a really satisfying win:
– You’ve got to love the energy the Cavs brought for the full 48. It was a noticeable difference. The Cavs played the entire game in that scrambling, ragged pace that they usually reserve for their furious fourth quarter comebacks. From the opening tip, they took it straight to the Thunder, who seemed surprised by the fact that this was going to be a competitive game.
– Former Buckeye Daequan Cook took possibly the worst shot I have ever seen in a professional basketball game. And I’ve watched Larry Hughes.
– The Cavs forced 13 steals and really seemed to fluster OKC’s offensive sets. The Thunder seemed just a tad lazy getting into their offense and the Cavs picked off a lot of bad passes, leading to 18 fastbreak points. Durant finished 9-18 from the floor, but never really looked comfortable (he finished with 6 turnovers and shot 1-7 from behind the arc).
– The Cavs beat the Thunder with five players scoring in double figures and not a single one of them was named Kyrie Irving. That is weird.
– I’d like to thank Thunder coach Scott Brooks for not playing Serge Ibaka more than just 23 minutes. That dude scares the crap out of me. But hey, if they want to play Kendrick Perkins down the stretch, go right ahead…. Ibaka had 6 blocks in his short time on the court and it looked like he could’ve had a bunch more. I thought the block party he put on late in the first half was going to demoralize the young Cavs heading into halftime.
– But Anthony Parker saved the day. Parker’s long jumper just before halftime cut the Thunder lead to 51-49 but, more importantly, took the air out of OKC’s late run to close the half. After all those blocks by Ibaka (5 in the final two minutes) the crowd was going bonkers, but the Cavs got a little bit back with AP’s long two.
– Ryan Hollins wasn’t completely terrible. Just mostly. Hollins finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds and had some nice energy (Irving found him for some easy buckets). If those 6 boards seem high for Hollins, they are. This was just third time all season he’s had more than 5 (all have come since 2/22).
– I’m firmly in the “Cavs have no business being near the playoffs and they need to draft high” camp but I’m not one to get mad at wins. If your young team is going to beat the top team in the West by outworking them and getting clutch plays from your stud rookie, so be it. There’s no way I’m not enjoying Kyrie Irving orchestrating three straight crunch time layups against a title contender.
– The win puts Cleveland’s record at just 15-23. That’s 10th in the East and good for the 8th pick. But a few losses here and there and they can jump to 4th. Here’s the current Top-10 draft order:
1. Charlotte: 5-33
2. New Orleans: 9-31
3. Washington: 9-29
4. Toronto: 13-26
5. New Jersey: 14-27
6. Detroit: 14-26
7. Sacramento: 14-26
8. Cleveland: 15-23
9. Milwaukee: 16-24
10. Golden State: 15-21
Obviously, we’ll have a better idea of the Cavs’ draft position post-Trade Deadline. But if they move Sessions for just a pick and Jamison for… anything, Cleveland’s record will suffer down the stretch (at least until Anderson Varejao returns). Ramon gave the Cavs another solid outing against the Thunder (10 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 boards) and, as much as Jamison hurts them defensively, there’s no one on the roster who can make up The Jumpshooter’s offensive output.
– The Cavs return to The Q Sunday to face the Rockets (21-19) at 6pm.
(Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)