CLEVELAND, Ohio – After being beaten by a horde of playoff teams last month, Sunday night should be different.
Focus should be. It just wasn’t. Just the well-known hopeless performance for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder (117-101). It’s Cleveland’s 10th straight loss and 14th in their last 16 games.
After all, the Cavs played against a comparable opponent – the rebuilding Thunder, also one of the league’s youngest teams that entered the night losers of six of its last seven. These are the games the Cavs should be able to compete in. These are the teams the Cavs should beat that will provide a reasonable measuring stick.
Cleveland was leading 8-10 at one point early Sunday night and looked like a refreshed group. That quick start quickly faded. Shortly after the initial outbreak, the Cavs mixed with their reserves, the Thunder wiped the lead away, and Cleveland never recovered. At one point in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City’s lead exploded to 20 points.
It’s one thing to be guided by the championship-contending Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers or Milwaukee Bucks – the beefy opponents on this relentless stretch. But the thunder?
“I thought it was lost in the physicality department,” said Cav’s head coach JB Bickerstaff. “We just have to get better. We have to shoot openly to survive. We need to be more protective and more physical. We have to be better. “
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who selected a few spots after Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA draft, led all scorers with 31 points in 9-of-15 shooting, 3-of-3 from 3-point range and 10-of- 12 off the foul line. This performance isn’t going to help silence the chorus of fans who believe the Cavs should have taken the gentle 6-foot-6 watch instead of Sexton a few years ago.
The experienced stabilizer Al Horford threw in 16 points and eight rebounds. Oklahoma City, 29th on the offensive this season, shot 54.4% off the field and 46.4% off the bow.
Sexton scored 27 points in 11-of-22 shooting for the Cavs, with four out of five starters hitting double digits. Jarrett Allen added the best 26 points of his career, made all 11 of his shot attempts and grabbed 17 boards. Darius Garland had 21 points.
The Cavs’ entrees weren’t the main issue. It was her terribly thinned bank. Oklahoma City’s second unit outstripped Cleveland’s reserves by 42-9.
Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., Taurean Prince, and Andre Drummond – Cleveland’s four highest-paid players – all stood on the bench, sitting on the bench in hoodies, watching their teammates collapse without them.
These absences created a domino effect, forcing Bickerstaff to dig deeper. The losses of Nance, Love and Prince meant Cedi Osman started power forward. The Cavs didn’t get enough production at this location on Friday – and the same thing happened again against the Thunder two nights later.
Osman scored six points, Lamar Stevens two and Dylan Windler, who was forced into that position from time to time out of necessity, made one.
Those costly minutes – and a weakened second unit – played the greatest role in preventing the Cavs from a victory they badly needed.
“Nobody comes to save us,” said Bickerstaff. “Nobody comes to save us. The rest of the league doesn’t care about our series. They see us as an opportunity to come right away. And we have to find that grit and that determination where we actually draw the line in the sand and not just hold the line but push forward and cross the line. That’s the only way to get out of there. “
3 point disparity
The Cavs have committed to shooting more 3-pointers. This is a good start. But doing them is another problem. They went 8 out of 35 from the deep. Osman was 0: 8, sexton only 1: 6. Thunder meanwhile was 13 of 28.
The Cavs will continue their homestand against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. Tip is 7 p.m.
New Cavs Face Masks For Sale: Here, you can purchase Cleveland Cavaliers-themed face covers for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All NBA proceeds were donated to charity.
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