We all know how difficult the weather can be to predict. Who hasn’t been caught on a seemingly bright and sunny day without an umbrella when the skies suddenly open up? The Oklahoma City Thunder strolled into snowy Cleveland winners of 35 games in their 46 attempts this season. Meanwhile, the Cavs were less than 24 hours removed from the embarrassing and lackluster defensive effort against the middling Pistons. The weatherman, whether you take him or her in the form of Vegas, analysts, fans, or even this writer, failed to forecast this one correctly and was fooled yet again. It was the quick shower that was C.J. Miles’s bench production, followed by a wall of smothering, low-hanging clouds in the form of Marreese Speights, capped off by the lightning bolts coming off the kicks of Kyrie Irving that lit up Quicken Loans Arena and the surrounding stratosphere and propelled the Cavaliers to a 115-110 victory over an Oklahoma City squad poised for a deep playoff run. [Read more...]
With the NBA Finals drawing near, it’s only natural for fans of teams not currently playing basketball to look on from a distance, wondering what it must take to be one of the teams representing their conference in the Finals.
Make no mistake about it, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a very long way away from getting there. The first key component is in place. Kyrie Irving was everything the Cavaliers were hoping for, and more, in his rookie season, but when you consider the 4 Conference Finalists, it’s clear that much work needs to be done.
In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden 1 as part of their “Big 3”. The San Antonio Spurs featured Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker.
The Eastern Conference Finals have their own clash of “Big 3s”. The Boston Celtics have the original Big 3 in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Not to mention Rajon Rondo, who is currently better than any of the original Big 3. The Miami Heat have the most infamous Big 3 in the NBA with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. [Read more...]
- if you count Serge Ibaka in that group, they actually have a “Big 4” [back]
The Cavs were missing their first and second string PG, missed 20 of 40 free throw attempts, and had 17 turnovers yet they somehow managed to improve to 26-1 when scoring 100 points in a game with a victory over the OKC Thunder. LeBron was magnificent and carried the depleted roster in a vintage LBJ MVP performance. He absolutely dominated the last minute of each half which buoyed the Cavaliers to victory. At the end of the first half, he hustled down with about 35 seconds to play and hit a three to force a 2-for-1 exchange giving the Cavaliers the final shot – where he promptly drilled another 3 pointer to end the half. A 7 point lead was immediately extended to 13 on the perfectly executed 2-for-1. It was a crucial exchange as the Cavaliers came out asleep in the 3rd, giving up an inexcusable 35 points in the quarter which in turn gave the Thunder a 1 point lead heading into the 4th.
Kevin Durant matched James for much of the second half and finished with 34 and 10. The final minute of the game, however, belonged to the reigning MVP who willed the undermanned Cavs to victory. As the Cavs gagged on free throw attempt after attempt, they found themselves down 1 with 35 seconds to go. Lebron grabbed a rebound off a Russell Westbrook miss and immediately raced down to the offensive end looking to score a quick bucket without calling timeout. With all 5 Thunder defenders focused on James, LeBron found Boobie Gibson who was wide open in transition. Boobie, who had a largely ineffective game as the new starting PG, stepped up and hit the clutch three to give the Cavs a two point lead. OKC isolated Durant on the other end to try and tie the game. KD drove to his left and got to the block only to be denied on highlight rejection by LeBron. James was fouled and sank the icing 2 FTs for the win. While James, who was one rebound away from a triple-double, and Durant were incredible throughout the game, those closing minutes of the first half and the game are what sealed the W and boost his MVP credentials.
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.
Cleveland Cavaliers (16-7)
@ Oklahoma City Thunder (12-9)
Ford Center, Oklahoma City, OK
7:00 PM EST FSN, WTAM 1100-AM
The Cavaliers look to collect another W tonight on the road against the suddenly above average Thunder in Oklahoma City. Still weird to consider there is a basketball franchise in that state, but it is definitely acceptable to refer to them as the Zombie Sonics, as popularized by ESPN’s Bill Simmons. Kevin Durant is absolutely tearing it up yet again this season for them, averaging 28.3 points per game while Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden represent a very young and productive core overall. This will not be a given for the Cavs and they need to recapture some of their fire and intensity from a few weeks back.