Two of the NBA’s top teams will meet for the second time this season as the Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Chesapeake Energy Arena to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (3.30pm ET Sunday on ABC).
The last time these two teams met was back on December 17th in Cleveland, a game the Cavaliers won by a score of 104-100. The Cavs were at their best seeing six players score in double figures, including 33 from star forward LeBron James and 14 from Tristan Thompson off of the bench. The duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant paced the Thunder, combining for 52 of the team’s points. Serge Ibaka, the third member of the dynamic OKC scoring trio, dropped an additional 23 in the loss.
And while the teams are still the same and the starting lineups won’t be any different this time around, this is a different game. For starters, it’s in Oklahoma, a place where the Thunder are 25-6 on the season. However, it should be noted that since the end of December, the Cavs have a 10-2 record on the road which is the best in the entire NBA.
Can the Cavaliers Continue their Winning Ways?
A win against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday gave Cleveland their Eastern Conference best 39th win on the season. Overall, the Cavs are 39-14 but lately, riding a four game win streak in which they have averaged over 111 points and 50 rebounds, no team has been as hot as Cleveland.
Since dropping back-to-back contests against the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics, the Cavaliers haven’t lost and this is in large part due to the resurgence of Kyrie Irving (pictured).
Irving, who has missed games and has had issues with his health this season, has been the team leader in points during the four game span. Irving has scored at least 19 points in each contest, including pacing the Cavs in three of the four. He has a total of 115 points and it is no coincidence that these numbers coincide with the Cavs winning ways.
Irving’s offensive spurt has helped the Cavs with balance and has lessened the burden on James, who has struggled at times this year when asked to be the sole source of the team’s offense. Irving is producing at such a high and efficient rate and as a result, the Cavs have been victorious by over 13 points per game.
Stopping the hot streak is going to be easier said than done for the Thunder. The Cavs are just rolling right now and if Irving and James continue to play the way they have, there is no reason to expect this level of excellence won’t continue.
Basketball’s Best Two-Some: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
Quite simply put, there is no greater and more dynamic duo in the NBA than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I mentioned the recent combination of Irving and James, but even with their numbers and chemistry as of late, nothing holds a candle to OKC’s two top guys.
Both Durant and Westbrook average over 24 points per game, doing so ranked among the top seven scorers in the league. It is no wonder the Thunder have 40 wins in an incredibly tough Western Conference as these two have led the way and have somehow managed to co-exist despite the fact that both are high volume shooters.
Westbrook and Durant are combining for close to 50 percent of the Thunder’s total points scored this year, as they did in their last meeting with the Cavs. Unfortunately for the Thunder, this is where Cleveland has to be favored. OKC played their game and both Westbrook and Durant put up over 25 and yet, the team lost. That has not happened often this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Picks
If one were to identify keys to the game for both teams, Cleveland’s would be to stay hot and to carry their momentum into yet another road win. The Cavs have one of the best road records in the league this year and as I previously mentioned, are the hottest team on the road since the end of 2015.
All of this is great news for the team that will be on the road Sunday but it should also be noted that Cleveland hasn’t played since Thursday night. Their winning streak is real and has included road and home wins, but in no time during that four game span have the Cavs had the kind of layoff they will in between besting Chicago and Sunday’s game against the Thunder. This could play against them.
Meanwhile, for the Thunder, the number one key is for Durant and Westbrook to continue to shoot and score the ball. If OKC hopes to get out of the West, featuring the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, who have been the absolute class of the conference this year, they will need their top two guys to continue to score at a high level.
However, if the last game between Cleveland and Oklahoma City is any indication, this game will be won on the glass, specifically the offensive glass. Both teams have way too many playmakers and scorers for offensive rebounds not to play a role. They did in the first game and if you go back through boxscores of these two teams over the ways, the one with the higher rebound total often emerges the winner.
Oh and just some extra food for thought. In 22 career games against the Thunder, James is averaging 29.7 points, which is tied for his highest points per game total against any team and is his highest against a Western Conference opponent.
So, all things considered and weighed in this one, take the Cavaliers to get win-in-a-row number five en route to becoming the East’s first 40-win team on the season.