January 27 is, coincidentally, a significant date to both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers this season.
The Thunder had not won a road game since Jan. 27 when it upended Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns.
For Cleveland, the Cavaliers defeated the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 27 to improve to a surprising 9-9 on the young season. The win capped a stretch that included two impressive wins over the Brooklyn Nets and one over the New York Knicks.
Since Jan. 27, both teams have been heading in the wrong direction.
Something had to give. Tonight, it was the Cavaliers.
Cleveland’s losing streak was extended to 10 after the Thunder beat the Cavaliers 117-101 on Sunday night.
Losing streaks are never fun, especially for the handful of Cavalier fans who bought tickets for the game.
After the final buzzer sounded, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” echoed throughout the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Every little thing won’t be alright in Cleveland for a while.
First Takeaway: Back On Track
The Milwaukee Bucks put the clamps down on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Friday night. OKC’s leading scorer mustered 16 points on 4-for-13 shooting, five assists and four turnovers in 36 minutes of the Thunder’s 98-85 loss.
“Just a bad night,” Gilgeous-Alexander told The Oklahoman after the game. “I missed a couple easy ones, missed a bunch of free throws, shots that I usually make. I’m not really too worried. Just one of them nights and I’ll be better for next game.”
Consider that a warning shot to the Cavaliers, but Cleveland played him as if it was unaware of the warning.
Gilgeous-Alexander equaled his scoring output from Friday (16) to go along with four assists and only one turnover in the first half alone. SGA finished with 31 points on 9-for-15 shooting, threw in three 3-pointers and nine assists to just three turnovers for good measure.
Second Takeaway: The Bench Is Back
If the Thunder have SGA and its bench going on any given night, there is virtually no chance it will lose.
Led by Hamidou Diallo’s 15 points on 5-for-5 from the field, Oklahoma City’s bench quartet outscored Cleveland’s bench quartet 42-9 on Sunday night.
Whenever the explosive Collin Sexton left the floor, and he didn’t leave it for very long (40 minutes played), Cleveland’s offense went to the bench right along with him.
Jarrett Allen had the best game of his NBA career down low for Cleveland with 26 points on a crisp 11-for-11 shooting along with 17 rebounds and his team still lost by 16 points.
It’s unfair to characterize the Cavaliers as a terrible club because of their now 10-game losing streak. Their previous nine losses came against playoff-caliber teams like Denver (twice), Milwaukee (twice), L.A. Clippers (twice), Portland, Phoenix and Golden State.
However, a lackluster home effort against a team on its level like the Thunder can’t be easily overlooked.
Third Takeaway: The Adventures Of Poku
There are lot of things can be said about Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokusevski. Lord knows I have done just that in this space.
But yesterday is forgotten because Sunday belonged to the Serbian 7-footer.
Pokusevski, his Oklahoma City Blue teammates and the rest of the G League have huddled to play their season down in a makeshift bubble in Orlando. Towards the end of the Blue’s Sunday matchup against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Pokusevski decided to goof off a bit.
As Blue guard Rob Edwards received a handoff pass from Ryan Woolridge, Edwards saw two arms raised in the air, as if the arms cried out, “I’m open! I’m open!” out of the corner of Edwards’ eye.
The arms, however, belonged to Pokusevski, who caught Edwards’ pass knowing full well he was out of the game and standing out of bounds.
The internet seemed to have a good time with it. It’s hard to say whether Edwards, who dipped his head after realizing his mistake, had a good time with it.
On the floor, Pokusevski was solid. He scored 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting with 10 rebounds and four assists. This is his best game since coming to the States. (He also turned the ball over four times, tying a team-high on the day.)
Poku also gave us this nifty move followed by a sweet finger roll on the fastbreak.
This is the range of the Pokusevski experience: Turnover-prone with Pete Maravich tendencies.
He is a real person.