Tip-Off: 7 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G Iman Shumpert had an impressive game against the Thunder just 11 days ago as he scored 16 points and shot 5/8 from beyond the arc. Cleveland is one of the league’s top 3-point shooting teams, and Shumpert is a big reason why. He only averages 7.8 points per game this season, but he is shooting a career-high 40.2% from three, and with the Cavs resting Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, Shumpert will likely look to shoot the three as often as possible.
Keys to the Game
- Force the Fast Break: Just a week and a half ago, Oklahoma City started off against Cleveland pushing the tempo and scoring easily in transition. Unfortunately, the Thunder also missed easy layups early, and before long, the defense started to falter and fast break opportunities were basically non-existent. Oklahoma City currently ranks 3rd in fast break points with 17.3 per game and 4th in opponent fast break points with 11.0 per game. The Cavaliers are a solid transition team offensively averaging 13.6 fast break points per game (11th in the NBA), but they are not that great at defending in transition, allowing 14.1 points per game (23rd in the NBA). If Oklahoma City can run the fast break effectively, it will force Cleveland to adjust their game plan and give the Thunder an edge.
- Prioritize Points in the Paint: In the first matchup between these two teams, both Oklahoma City and Cleveland scored a lot of points in the paint with 52 apiece, which is normal for the Thunder, but not for the Cavs. Cleveland has one of the league’s top offenses, but they are typically not that great down low. The Cavs rank 29th in points in the paint with 38.8 per game, and they allow 43.4 points, which is 17th in the NBA. Oklahoma City is a monster in the paint, ranking 2nd in the NBA with 49.4 points down low per game. However, the Thunder ranks 29th in paint defense, giving up 47.9 points per game. Oklahoma City had no problem scoring down low against Cleveland in their first meeting, but the Thunder struggled to stop the Cavs, which will be key to winning at home tonight.
- Defend the Arc: Cleveland ranks 2nd in the NBA in 3-point shooting, and while Cavs shot a poor 8/29 (27.9%) from 3 in the first contest, they used their sharpshooting to turn the game around. Oklahoma City led by 3 at the end of the first quarter, but Cleveland shot 4/7 from 3 in the second quarter to enter halftime with a 13-point lead which the Thunder would never recover from. The Thunder needs to consistently protect the perimeter as the Cavs are a team that can make it rain from deep without a moment’s notice.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.