Feb 26, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Jarrett Jack (1) handles the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Derek Fisher (6) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Game 69: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

LAST TIME OUT

LeBron James took it to the Cavaliers on Tuesday night, lighting them up for 25 first quarter points en route to a 43-point performance. However, the Cavs weathered the storm and had a chance to win the game down the stretch before succumbing 100-96. Jarrett Jack led the way with 22 points and Dion Waiters, filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving, added 17 points and 11 assists, but shot 6-19 from the field and committed six turnovers. Anderson Varejao went for 16 points and 11 boards off the bench, easily his best game since missing 12 contests with a back injury.

THIS TIME UP

The Opponent: Oklahoma City

Record: 49-18 overall, 21-11 road

Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. ET – Quicken Loans Arena

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio

Where you can listen: WTAM 1100

Previous Matchup: Cavs 114, Thunder 104 on Feb. 26, 2013

Opponent’s Blog: Thunderous Intentions

Injury Report

Thunder: C-Kendrick Perkins (OUT-Groin), PG-Russell Westbrook (QUESTIONABLE-Rest)

Cavaliers: PF-Anthony Bennett (OUT-Knee), SF-Luol Deng (OUT-Ankle), G-C.J. Miles (OUT-Ankle)

Slowing Durant

Durant has scored 25 or more points in 32 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the NBA since Michael Jordan did it for 40 straight games during his incredible 1986-87 season. Like everyone else, the Cavs had trouble stopping KD in last month’s matchup, allowing the three-time scoring champion to score 28 points on 10-16 shooting with 10 rebounds and nine assists. After watching the LeBron James clinic on Tuesday and with Deng possibly sitting this one out, Durant must be licking his chops at the thought of facing Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee. The Cavs should employ a double-team on Durant but he’s become adept at finding his teammates, averaging a career-high 5.5 dimes. Still, outside shooting isn’t a strength of the Thunder, who are 14th in the league shooting threes at a 36.3 percent clip. Outside of Durant, only Derek Fisher is an elite three-point threat. Cleveland should force Durant to pass out to the perimeter and hope the Thunder have an off shooting night from deep. Making the role players beat you is a much better option than allowing Durant to get hot.

Cutting Down Turnovers

Cleveland committed 19 turnovers against Miami, giving up 26 points to the Heat off those mistakes which ultimately was the death knell. You cannot turn the ball over against great teams and expect to survive, especially when those teams already are extremely talented offensively. Six of those giveaways were charged to Waiters, who is adjusting to handling the ball and being the primary decision maker.  He must learn quickly to value the basketball especially against elite teams. If Waiters or anyone else does commit turnovers, hopefully they aren’t ‘live-ball’ turnovers (steal leading to a transition opportunity) but rather ‘dead-ball turnovers,’ meaning play is stopped during the change of possession (out of bounds, charging call, etc.) which would allow the Cavs to set up on defense. If they can limit the turnovers, they’ll have more attempts

Prediction

The Kyrie Irving possible season-ending bicep injury on Sunday night likely was the final blow to a franchise toiling through another disastrous season, far from meeting its postseason expectations. The Cavs should again be competitive in this game and depending upon Westbrook’s status, may have a real chance to sweep the Thunder. Even without Westbrook, Reggie Jackson is a solid starting point guard and the Thunder certainly have enough to mow down the bleeding Cavs. Without Irving and Deng, I don’t believe the Cavs have enough scoring to compete with Durant, Jackson, Serge Ibaka and company.

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters Kyrie Irving Luol Deng

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