The Cleveland Cavaliers are heading into the All-Star break with a win, as they defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-112.
The Cavs struggled to contain the Thunder on the boards in the first quarter, allowing the Thunder to keep pace with Cleveland’s offense. But on the plus side, the offense looked stellar once again, carrying over their rhythm from Sunday’s win over the Celtics.
With Adams out of the game, the Cavs bench was able to create some separation. Larry Nance in particular was impressive with his ability to draw attention as a rim-runner, getting offensive rebounds, and being disruptive on defense.
Fatigue set in for Cleveland in the second half, as the team stopped taking the ball to the rim. Luckily that didn’t hold them back too much, as LeBron James went absolutely beserk from behind the arc. His 17 points in the third helped the Cavs hold-off a Thunder team that came out of the half with a renewed sense of energy.
The new additions didn’t do anything to mitigate the excitement they’ve generated since the trade. The run Clarkson, Hood, Korver, Green and Nance made to start the fourth quarter helped provide the team with the cushion needed to close this game out. One of the benefits of starting Smith and Osman is that it allows this unit to stay together and blitz the opposition. If they can keep playing defense with this much intensity, it’ll be a considerable difference maker for the team while LeBron rests.
- Stephen Adams is a monster from another world. With the big name players in Oklahoma City, it’s easy to forget that he is their third best player by a fairly wide margin. He abused Tristan Thompson on the offensive glass and was simply two big and talented throughout the night. He’s a top-five player at his position, and someone the Cavs don’t have an answer for.
- Some of this may be influenced by so many years of watching seniors, but man… the Cavs are fast now. Not only do they get out and run in transition, but their drives and cuts in the half-court are executed with a degree of speed we just haven’t seen in years. I don’t know if LeBron has ever played with this many “plus” athletes in his career, but it’s fun to see now.
- Speaking of pace, the Cavs are sort-of reminding me of the post-Dave Blatt firing team. They are emphasizing getting out and running and you can see they are getting visibly winded at times. It’ll take some time to get used to this pace, but it ultimately will be beneficial in the long-run. It also means that Tyronn Lue will need to monitor the players closely and make substitutions a little quicker than he is accustomed to. He probably left a few guys on for too long to close out the half, and the Thunder made a run to narrow the gap.
- Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood appear to be certified bucket-getters. Hood is decisive coming off of screens and was able to generate space when the offense bogged down. He also was automatic when left unguarded from three. While Clarkson’s speed was almost as impressive as his decision making, as he picked his spots for another efficient night.