The Cleveland Cavaliers were going to go into the final quarter of play down just three points after guard Daniel Gibson had drawn a foul on a three-point shot. Gibson converted on all three free throw attempts, putting the Cavs who were once down 13 points in the third quarter within just three of the reigning Western Conference champs. Russell Westbrook, with less than two seconds left in the game, banked in a 31-foot shot to extend the lead to six points.
Westbrook then proceeded to make his next two three-point attempts right out of the gate at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and finished with 27 points on the night. The lead that was at one time three points with under three seconds to go in the third quarter turned quickly into a 12-point mountain in a matter of minutes, as the Cavaliers were outscored in the final 12 minutes 27-18. The Oklahoma City Thunder (5-2) improved on their four-game winning streak by keeping the Cavs (2-5) out of reach with a 106-91 victory.
Despite the Wine and Gold only turning over the ball 12 times compared to the Thunder’s 21 miscues, mistakes came at inopportune times for the Cavaliers. Miscues along with shot selection doomed the Cavs. Dion Waiters, who started out with a hot hand, only attempted six shots on the night. Bench players Jon Leuer and Omri Casspi, who haven’t seem much time this season, attempted a total of 15 shots and finished with a combined shooting percentage of 20 percent. Alonzo Gee, who performed relatively well for a matchup with Kevin Durant, attempted 17 shots, while making 41.2 percent.
That 41.2 percent stands out for one reason. The Thunder, who started the season 1-2, have held their opponents over their four-game winning streak to 41 percent shooting from the field and 91 points allowed. The Cavaliers followed suit for the most part, but Cleveland could have avoided going down by double digits in the first half if the bench would’ve stepped up more.
Daniel Gibson, who has been a stud off the bench so far this season, started the first quarter with 11 points. Usually “Boobie” is a nice role player for the Cavaliers on the defensive end, but lately the only offensive production coming from the bench is from the former Texas Longhorn. Gibson scored 16 points off the bench, but was ineffective on the defense side. He finished with a +/- of -24 when the night was finally over, and wasn’t able to contain the very energetic Westbrook.
The rest of the bench wasn’t of much help, however. Casspi, Leuer and Donald Sloan were the only other contributors, combined for 13 points. Coach Byron Scott is going to have to find out a way to implement the secondary units to mold with the starters. Right now things aren’t running smoothly with the way C.J. Miles has been playing and the sloppiness of Samardo Samuels’ defense. That problem needs to be addressed pronto, and the Thunder starters exposed that problem. Kevin Durant and Westbrook finished with a combined 53 points, while Durant corralled eight boards and Westbrook dished out 10 assists.
All was not lost for the Cavaliers, as star player Kyrie Irving continued to turn heads in Oklahoma City. Irving, who single handedly won the game in the fourth quarter last year, tallied 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Something that was missing in Irving’s game tonight was his ability to get to the free throw line. He missed on both of his attempts on Sunday, but he usually manages six or so attempts. That part of his game needs to stay constant if Cleveland wants to compete.
The Cavaliers will finish off their six-game road trip with a 7:30 p.m. matchup against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. The Cavaliers will make their first trip to the Barclays Center.