Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Marreese Speights scored his first points of the fourth quarter with 9:47 remaining in the game. Including that shot, Speights went on to make six of his eight attempts in the final frame to account for 13 of his 21 points off the bench. His play and presence on the court ignited the Cavaliers, and Kyrie Irving soon joined the cast of fourth quarter standouts with less than three minutes remaining. From that point on he scored 13 of Cleveland’s final 15 points to help deliver his team the 115-110 victory over one of the best teams in the league.
Speights finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while shooting 10-of-15 from the field. The former Memphis Grizzlies bench player saw time early on in the first quarter, but his level of play and energy reached peak levels with the game on the line. As for Kyrie, it was the same old song and dance with the game withering down in a back-and-forth battle. The All-Star finished with 35 points and made all eight of his free throw attempts. His counterpart – Russell Westbrook – played a very similar game, as the third-year All-Star scored 28 points. Irving, however, constantly burned Westbrook in the lane down the stretch and made a fool of the Thunder’s defense. Kevin Durant, who missed some time after leaving the court in the third quarter, finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds, but shot 8-of-21 from the field. That is uncommon for the reigning scoring champ, who is shooting 51.9 percent from the field on the season.
The bench play for the Cavaliers has been the key component to their success as of late, and that is in direct correlation with acquiring Speights and Wayne Ellington. Although Ellington only had five points off the bench, a crucial three in the fourth quarter sparked the Cleveland offense in the midst of a Speights rampage. C.J. Miles also contributed quite nicely for the Cavs, shooting 5-of-7 from the field with 16 points on the night.
Another thing that has been different with the Cavaliers ever since they dealt with the Grizzlies is their ability to spread the ball around. The Wine and Gold now feel inclined to convert after receiving a pass from a teammate. This is a true sign of team basketball, which is impressive for such a young team with new pieces. Cleveland finished with eight more assists (27) than the Thunder, with Shaun Livingston and Dion Waiters both finishing with six dimes apiece.
Durant got going late, and that could have ended up so much worse for the Cavaliers than it obviously did. Alonzo Gee did a superb job with keeping a wild scorer like Durant contained for most of the game, forcing him to shoot 1-of-5 from the field in the first quarter. He hasn’t been able to have much of an impact from an offensive standpoint lately, as he has averaged just 6.0 points over the last 10 games. But Gee’s defensive presence has not gone unnoticed, and this is just yet another instance of the Cavs coming together for the better of the team.
There are so many more examples of this happening as of late, but one more example in this game would have to be Tristan Thompson’s unselfish play. He doesn’t need to put up 18 points every night, but his effort on the boards this season has been relentless. His five offensive rebounds tied for a team-high with Tyler Zeller.
Cleveland will ride the wave of momentum from beating one of the best team’s in the NBA in a matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday at home. The game is set to tipoff at 7 p.m.