Tip-Off: 2:30 PM CST
Location: Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland, OH)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F Lebron James is 32 years old, but he is still considered by many to be the best basketball player in the world. Lebron has continued to put up dominant stats despite sharing much of the workload with his All-Star counterpart Kyrie Irving. So far this season, Lebron is averaging 25.7 points while shooting 52.4% from the field, 36.3% from three, and 70.0% from the free throw line. He is also averaging 7.9 rebounds, 8.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, but he’s averaging a career-high 4.3 turnovers per game. The Cavaliers are 3-6 in their last 9 games, and Lebron has stayed pretty consistent in his stats, but the team as a whole has not played that well. If Oklahoma City can frustrate Lebron, then that will upset the flow of the rest of the Cavaliers and give the Thunder a good chance at winning this game.
Keys to the Game
- Perimeter Protection: Cleveland is one of the top three-point shooting teams in the league both in volume (2nd in the NBA with 33.5 attempts per game) and in percent (3rd in the NBA at 38.4%). Oklahoma City has defended the arc well at times, but when they do not, it is a recipe for disaster. The Thunder ranks 9th in the league in opposing 3P% at 35.4%, and they will need to lock down Cleveland’s sharpshooters like Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, and Kyrie Irving to maintain their solid perimeter defense.
- Full Throttle Fast Break: Oklahoma City has consistently been one of the top teams in the league in transition, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The Thunder currently ranks 3rd in both fast break points with 17.5 per game and opponent fast break points with 11.0 per game. The Cavaliers are a decent fast break team offensively averaging 13.6 transition points per game (13th in the NBA), but they are not that great at defending in transition, allowing 14.2 points per game (23rd in the NBA). If Russell Westbrook and Co. can get out and run in transition, they will have a good chance to maintain momentum and carry some intensity into the defensive side of the ball.
- Interior Play is Important: Cleveland is one of the league’s top three-point shooting teams, but they are not that great down low. The Cavs rank 29th in points in the paint with 38.2 per game, and they allow 43.6 point, which is 16th in the NBA. Oklahoma City is a monster in the paint, ranking 2nd in the NBA with 49.7 points down low per game. However, the Thunder ranks dead last in paint defense, giving up 48.1 points per game. With the absence of Enes Kanter, the Thunder will look to other options to continue their offensive domination in the paint, which is absolutley key because whoever wins the inside game will have a really good shot to win the game.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.