Thunder Get Thumped By Cavaliers Behind LeBron's Near Triple-Double

Sunday, February 21st 2016, 6:46 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger

All season long there’s been a lot of chatter about Billy Donovan’s substitution patterns and how they affect the Thunder’s offense, and in Sunday’s 115-92 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was Donovan’s decision making that stuck out like a sore thumb.

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With the Thunder leading 28-27 after one quarter, Oklahoma City’s offense looked to be in pristine shape by shooting 50 percent from the field and the highly-anticipated matchup between OKC and Cleveland was  living up to all the hype. Unfortunately for all the NBA fans around the nation who were gushing over this elite clash of competitors, things went south quickly inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Donovan elected to keep both of his all-stars—Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook—on the bench to start the second frame, and as a result the Cavaliers ripped off a 7-to-2 run before Donovan decided to reinsert his multi-talented point guard back into the game.

By that point, the OKC offense had already began to muck up, and LeBron James began to take over in every aspect of the game. At halftime Cleveland held a 62-53 lead, and James had already poured in 18 points, six assists and four rebounds.

Another reason for some of OKC's second quarter woes had to do with newly acquired guard Randy Foye, who recored a +/- total of -12, and had three fouls.  One costly hack was committed on James, who was able to finish the layup for the and-1 bucket.

Durant and Westbrook did everything they could to open in the second half, and the Thunder got within four points at 66-62 after Westbrook almost took down the goal with a ferocious dunk which electrified not only the Peake, but the social media world as well.

But while the Thunder stars were shining, guard Dion Waiters was doing anything but that. After failing to score on Friday night against the Pacers, Waiters’ struggles continued on Sunday afternoon against his former team.

The shooting guard from Syracuse missed his first eight shots of the game, and despite looking hesitant and going 0-for-4 in the third quarter, Donovan elected to keep him in the game throughout the entire frame. That suspect substitution pattern from Donovan played a big part in the Cavaliers’ 29-to-11 run to end the third quarter.

Cleveland boasted a 95-73 lead going into the final frame, but Oklahoma City was only able to get as close as 17 points as they fell to 40-16 on the season and 0-2 against the Cavaliers.

Durant led the Thunder in scoring with 26 points while grabbing five rebounds, but had some trouble guarding LeBron James on the other end, who finished with 25 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Westbrook was also close to recording a triple-double with 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.

Kevin Love was a huge factor in the Cavaliers’ win with 29 points and 11 rebounds while both J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson added 15 points apiece.

Probably the most impressive fact of the day is that Cleveland was able to pull out this victory without point guard Kyrie Irving for most of the game after he left in the second quarter with flu-like symptoms. The Cavaliers were somehow able to flip that roster-blow into a positive, by playing James at the point and his distributing instincts were able to take over the game. 

The Thunder will be back in action on Wednesday night in Dallas when they square off with the Mavericks.