Russell Westbrook recorded his second-ever 20-assist game to go along with 23 points and 9 rebounds, Paul George scored 36 points, and Carmelo Anthony (29 points and 10 rebounds) and Steven Adams (25 points and 10 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles as the Thunder grabbed the lead early, held on from start to finish, and torched the Cavaliers in Cleveland 148-124.

Oklahoma City’s offense was hot right out of the gate as Steven Adams and Paul George went to work early. The Thunder opened up the game on an 8-0 run, and just four-and-a-half minutes into the game, Adams and George had 10 points apiece, and Oklahoma City held a 20-12 lead over Cleveland.

Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Patrick Patterson would chip in six points apiece as the Thunder would dominate the first quarter to put up a season-high 43 points while holding the Cavs to just 24.

The all-bench lineup that has been especially effective lately started off the second quarter, and they did not have the shooting touch that the starters had in the first. The Cavs reserves took advantage of the Thunder as Cleveland went on a 10-0 through the first two-and-a-half minutes of the period.

Still holding a 43-34 lead, Oklahoma City’s starters would begin to check in, and it was all Big 3 from that point until halftime. Paul George would pour in another 13 points to give him 26 total, and Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony would score nine apiece to bring their halftime totals to 15 points each. On top of their scoring, Westbrook had 11 assists, and Anthony had nine rebounds at the half. Oklahoma City put up a new season-high for points in the first half, and at the break, the Thunder led 76-60.

Despite Cleveland’s best efforts in the second quarter, Oklahoma City still held a lot of momentum, and after halftime, the Thunder were far from done for the day. Oklahoma City’s Big 3 continued to be unstoppable, and it was Carmelo Anthony who would lead the way with 14 third-quarter points. Paul George added in 11 points and three rebounds, and Russell Westbrook put in six points and seven assists. After three quarters, Oklahoma City had increased their lead to 114-94 over Cleveland.

Despite cutting the Thunder lead to 12 points with just a little over two minutes left in the third period, the Cavs simply did not have what it took to get any closer. Oklahoma City’s 20-point lead to begin the final period would only increase over the quarter, and with just a minute-and-a-half left in the game, the Thunder took it’s largest lead of the night at 148-117. Steven Adams put in 10 points and five rebounds in the fourth, and Terrance Ferguson came alive off the bench with nine points, and the Thunder moved to 26-20 on the season with a 148-124 win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • Good Thunder Offense or Bad Cleveland Defense? The Cavaliers have struggled defensively for most of this season; meanwhile, the Thunder’s offense has been lackluster and unimpressive, despite having three all-star scoring threats in the starting lineup. Taking both of these pieces of information into consideration, Oklahoma City’s offensive performance today should still be considered impressive for a number of a reasons. The 148 points scored by Oklahoma City is tied for the highest-scoring effort by an NBA team all season-long, and it is the most points ever scored in a regulation game in the 10-season history of the organization. The Thunder also shot an impressive 58% from the field, which is their second-best shooting performance of the season, while making 46.7% of three-point attempts, which is tied for third-best on the season.
  • Down-Low Dominance is Key Moving Forward: With the ability to score from just about anywhere on the court, perhaps the most important area for the Thunder to get points is in the paint. The Thunder dominated the Cavaliers by scoring 66 points in the paint, tied for Oklahoma City’s season high, and by outrebounding them 52-28. Steven Adams has proven himself to be one of the league’s top big men, and today was no different as he scored 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Adams grabbed five of his rebounds on offense, which is how many he averages for the season, tied for the best in the NBA.  The Thunder is 6-1 when Adams scores at least 20 points, and getting him going early has been a big part of the Thunder’s success over the last month and a half.
  • Defense Still Needs Improvement: The Thunder opened up the game playing solid defense against a quality offense, but as the game went on, the pace favored offense. While it makes sense that as Oklahoma City is able to score at a faster rate, opposing teams are going to have more opportunities to score as well, but the Thunder still allowed the Cavaliers to shoot 51.7% from the field. Oklahoma City was able to grab nine steals, which is right about the season-average of 9.4 steals per game, but a big issue early in today’s game was foul trouble. The Thunder averages 20.4 fouls per game, but today, they were whistled for 16 fouls in the first half alone. Oklahoma City cleaned it up in the second half to finish with 23 total fouls, but the Cleveland was able to shoot 27 free throws, which is high even for the Cavs, who average 23.2 attempts per game (10th in the NBA). While the whistle is not always going to go your way, the Thunder has to be sure to avoid foul trouble when playing the league’s marquee teams as the offense won’t always be able to bail them out.

Headed Home

The Thunder heads home to Oklahoma City where they will host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. The Nets are 17-29, but they defeated the Thunder 100-94 in Mexico City earlier this season. The game will tip at 7 PM and will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1 FM.

Don’t forget to check out the most recent episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys

Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.