The Cleveland Cavaliers had an opportunity for some home cooking against the Oklahoma City Thunder in their home opener. Sadly, the kitchen burned down. Coming off an absolutely thrilling opening night win against the Brooklyn Nets, the Cavs were looking to build off that momentum in their home opener. Unfortunately, the Cavs came up short on Friday against the Thunder.
The Cavs had a nine-point lead with 1:56 left in the fourth quarter, but they blew it, losing 108-105. The Cavs got off to a very slow start, as the Thunder started the game off on a 7-0 run, and had a 15-point lead in the second quarter. The Cavs battled their way back to cut the lead to 10 at halftime, and had a great third quarter, where they outscored the Thunder 33-27. They kept it going until the last two minutes of the fourth, where they collapsed, as I mentioned before.
The Cavs were missing two big players against the Thunder, as they sorely missed the dynamic and steady playmaking of point guard Darius Garland, who was out with a hamstring injury. They were also missing center Jarrett Allen for the second straight game, as he is nursing an ankle injury.
Offensively for the Cavs, the shooting was not nearly as potent as it was in Brooklyn, as they were a horrific 12-for-45 from three point range. Fortunately, some players bounced back after pedestrian opening games, including Evan Mobley, who had a strong 14 points and 15 rebounds, controlling the paint for much of the night. Guard Caris LeVert also bounced back after a four-of-17 opening night, as he finished with 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting off the bench.
Unfortunately, two key players from the win against the Nets, regressed. Forward Max Strus came back down to Earth after a scorching debut, as he had 10 points on two-for-11 from three-point range. Isaac Okoro also chipped in with 10, which included nine first quarter points, but only scored one point the rest of the way.
Oh, don’t worry I didn’t forget about the game the Cavs’ best player had. Despite the loss, Donovan Mitchell had himself a night for the Cavs.
Mitchell finished with 43 points. This was Mitchell’s 14th 40-point game with the Cavs, and only LeBron James has more 40-point games in Cavaliers history, at 51. Mitchell made big play after big play once again. He gave the Cavaliers a chance late, as he hit a huge pull-up three-pointer to cut the lead to one. It was not enough in the end, but it was good to see him step up in a huge way with the absences of Garland and Allen.
On the Oklahoma City side, it was a great effort for them as they moved to 2-0 on the season. Superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sliced and diced his way to an efficient 34 points on 15-of-22 shooting. He was flanked by Lu Dort, who had 25 strong points of his own. Dort also came up with a key stop late, as he altered Mitchell’s mid-range shot attempt to tie the game. However, the story of the game was rookie center Chet Holmgren.
Holmgren finished with a Thunder rookie record seven blocks, to go along with his 16 points and 13 rebounds. He held his own with Mobley all night, and was a huge reason the Thunder were able to pull this game out.
These young teams gave us an absolute thriller, and are expected to be huge threats in their respective conferences this season. Looking ahead for the Cavaliers, they have another home game tonight against the Indiana Pacers, making it their third game in four nights.
As for the Thunder, they will look to move to 3-0 on the season, when they host the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets on Sunday afternoon.