Posted on February 14, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Beating the Boston Celtics on Sunday was a good start for the Cleveland Cavaliers 2.0. But the Celtics are not playing good basketball right now which diminishes the accomplishment. The Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the teams who whipped the old version of the Cavs on national television recently, had their full roster Tuesday night.
A couple of guys were returning from injuries but nothing serious. So, what fans had was a real test for the Cavs 2.0—the Thunder and their Big Three.
While the Thunder got good games out of their Big Three and Steven Adams, they got almost nothing from anyone else. Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton chipped in a little off the bench, but to take down the Cavaliers they needed more.
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No one was able to give it.
Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Steve Adams each scored 20+ on the night. But the Thunder only got 20 additional points from the rest of the team.
On Cleveland’s side of the court, LeBron James continued to look reinvigorated with a 37-point, eight rebounds, and eight assists night while leading his team to a 120-112 win. JR Smith provided some help with 18 points off 6-9 shooting from three-point range. But the bulk of the help he received came off the bench.
Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson clocked in with 24 minutes off the bench; each scored 14 points. Larry Nance Jr. chipped in 13 points in 25 minutes off the bench, and Jeff Green added another 10.
“Everybody is playing for each other,” Clarkson said (via Cleveland.com). “It doesn’t matter who scores the ball. We’re getting in the paint, making plays for each other. It’s fun basketball. This is how you’re supposed to play.”
The game remained relatively close. Cleveland got out to an early lead after the first quarter, 29-28. They were able to get out to an 11-point lead late in the second, but Oklahoma City was able to close the gap down to five points, 62-57.
Cleveland appeared ready to take over the game in the third quarter. James scored 14 points within the first five minutes of the third to help the Cavs take an 11-point lead after making a 26-footer with 7:06 to play. Oklahoma responded with an 8-0 run in the quarter to close the gap to 91-87 going into the fourth.
The Cavs ended up remaining in control for the rest of the game. They led by as much as 11 during the final minutes of the game. A late push was able to cut the deficit down to five, 117-112, with 23.2 seconds to play. But the Thunder would not make another shot.
James finished off the scoring with a free throw to make the final 120-112.
The win is especially nice for the Cavs since it avenges the massive beatdown the Thunder put on the Cavs a few weeks ago (148-124). But can it also stand as proof that the new look Cavs are legitimate contenders again? Not yet.
It’s only been two games. Yes, they have been games against two of the top teams in the NBA. But it has still only been two. But James sounds like he’s feeling pretty good about the new additions (Cleveland.com):
“It just wasn’t working out for us, and he felt like, obviously you guys saw his quotes, he made the changes that he felt best fits our team. Then it’s on me to make sure the new guys that come in, I make sure they fit in and make it as seamless as possible.”
Oklahoma City will play one more game before the All-Star break on Valentine’s Day against the Memphis Grizzlies. Cleveland will be off until after the Break.