After three mentally and physically exhausting Eastern Conference victories to start their recent four-game trip – it’s impossible to fault the Cavaliers for simply running out of gas in the final minutes of the fourth quarter on Thursday night in Oklahoma City.
The Wine and Gold – playing their third game in four nights – hung tough for most of the evening, but the Thunder had just a little more juice in the closing moments and pulled away for the 118-109 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
After Wednesday’s win in Indy, Coach Tyronn Lue intimated that he might give some of his road-weary starters the night off in OKC. But the Big Three and Co. wanted to continue their roll and wrap up the roadie undefeated.
Already without J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, the Cavaliers learned that they’d also be without DeAndre Liggins – who started the previous evening but lost a tooth after being hit in the mouth against the Pacers. Jordan McRae got the start in his place.
Cleveland did get some added help when they inked forward Derrick Williams – who was recently released by Miami – to a 10-day contract.
Williams responded with a rock-solid performance in his Cavaliers debut – finishing with 12 points in 21 minutes, going 3-of-3 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the stripe.
Kyrie Irving scored nine of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter – finishing 11-for-18 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from long-range, adding four assists and a pair of steals.
Irving also had the unenviable task of checking Russell Westbrook – who finished with his 26th triple double of the season – for most of the night. Westbrook led both teams with 29 points to go with 12 boards, 11 assists and a game-high four steals.
But as lethal as the Thunder’s MVP candidate was on Thursday, it was Victor Oladipo who hurt Cleveland down the stretch – netting 12 of his 23 points in the final quarter.
LeBron James finished with 18 points on 8-for-19 shooting, adding seven assists, five boards, two steals and a pair of blocks.
Kevin Love doubled-up for his fourth straight game – and nine of his previous ten – finishing with 15 points, 12 boards and a team-best three steals.
Tristan Thompson rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 10 points and Kyle Korver, coming off a scorching performance the previous night in Indiana, finished with eight points, going 3-for-3 from the floor, including 2-for-2 from long-distance.
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