The Cleveland Cavaliers came to Oklahoma City on a three game losing streak to face the team with the best record in the Western Conference. While the Cavaliers have played with good effort lately, injuries to Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, and C.J. Miles, as well as a lethargic first fifty games of the season may have cost the team a chance at the playoffs. After a loss on Tuesday to the Toronto Raptors in which Kyrie Irving played forty-five minutes. All signs pointed to a beat down by the Thunder, so what happens? The Cavaliers score 42 points in the fourth quarter and win by a final score of 114-104.
PG Kyrie Irving – When an All-Star starter faces one of the best teams in the league you expect a big performance and Kyrie Irving did not disappoint. Irving was stellar tonight scoring 31 points on 10-19 shooting to go along with nine assists, five rebounds, and four steals. Irving put the team on his back, particularly in the fourth quarter, and his play during the game and excitement afterward were a joy to watch.
SG Jarrett Jack - It’s no secret that Jack has been struggling lately, but tonight he looked like the player the Cavaliers were hoping for when they signed him. Jack scored 21 points on 14 shots, and like Irving was perfect from the line, making all six of his free throws. Throw in four assists and three rebounds, and this was arguably his best game as a Cavalier so far.
SF Luol Deng – Deng continues to struggle with his shot, shooting 5-16 for 13 points. He was also torched by Kevin Durant most of the night (join the crowd), but did a nice job on Durant in the fourth quarter. Coach Mike Brown credited Deng and Jack for keeping the team focused and positive throughout the game.
PF Tristan Thompson – Thompson flew below the radar a bit tonight, but actually had a very nice game. The big man recorded yet another double-double, scoring 11 points on 4-6 shooting (3-3 from the line) in addition to his 11 rebounds and five assists. Throw in a steal and a block, and Thompson was a big part of this win and was especially huge in keeping the game close in the third quarter.
C Spencer Hawes – Considering he was traded to Cleveland less than a week ago, Hawes has become an indispensable part of the Cavaliers’ rotation very quickly The new starting center had 19 points and seven rebounds and provided valuable spacing by making three of six of his shots from deep. While he only tallied one assist, Hawes’ passing skills were evident throughout the game. Just 25 years old, Hawes may be the impending free agent the Cavaliers should be focused on resigning.
Matthew Dellavedova continues to prove his worth to this team. The undrafted rookie point guard only had four points to go along with three rebounds and two assists, but he did a tremendous job helping Jack and Irving run the offense of the second unit and his defense frustrated Derek Fisher to the point where the veteran guard earned a technical for his complaining.
Mike Brown was happy with the Cavaliers’ pace on offense, as they kept pushing the ball and attacking throughout the game. Brown pointed out the efforts of Kyrie Irving and the second unit as a whole in this win. Brown emphasized the skill Spencer Hawes has brought to the team in terms of spacing and passing, and how it has opened the floor up for the team. He also mentioned the leadership of Luol Deng and Jarrett Jack in keeping the team focused and not letting them get down when the Thunder went on a run in the third quarter.
The Cavaliers are back in action on Friday when they host the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena. The Jazz are 20-36, and only 7-20 on the road, so this is a must win game for the Cavaliers if they want to continue their push toward the playoffs with a tough March schedule looming.