GameDay Preview: Cavs at Thunder

Kyrie Irving
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/GettyImages

Game Summary

The Wine and Gold travel to Oklahoma City tonight to take on the Thunder at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Cleveland (22-36) has won six of the last nine meetings against the Thunder dating back to the 2008-09 Season.

Oklahoma City (43-14) comes into tonight's game on a two-game skid after falling to the Miami Heat and L.A. Clippers to begin their six-game home stand.

Probable Starters/Injury Report* presented by Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland ClinicCavaliers: PG - Kyrie Irving, SG - Jarrett Jack, SF - Luol Deng
PF - Tristan Thompson, C - Spencer Hawes

Thunder: PG - Russell Westbrook, SG - Thabo Sefolosha, SF - Kevin Durant
PF - Serge Ibaka, C - Steven Adams

Status Update: (Cavs) - Carrick Felix, (Left patellar Stress Fracture, Out), Anderson Varejao, (Sore Back, Out), Dion Waiters, (Left Knee Hyperextension, Out), C.J. Miles, (Left Ankle Sprain, Out)

(Thunder) - Kendrick Perkins, (Left Groin Strain, Out)

*Subject to change

Head-to-Head Matchup

The Cavs split the 2012-13 series with the Thunder, 1-1. The most recent contest was on Feb. 2, 2013 in Cleveland where Kyrie Irving scored 13 points in the final 2:52 and finished with a game-high 35 points on 12-23 (.521) shooting as the Cavs defeated Oklahoma City 115-110.

All-time, the Wine and Gold are 42-59 against the Thunder (29-21 Home, 13-38 Road).

Key to the Game/Key Matchup

Attacking the Basket

Oklahoma City is long and athletic with superb help from their weak side defense.

As has become the norm in recent seasons, the Thunder is once again among the top shot-blocking teams in the NBA (OKC currently ranks second in the NBA with 6.07 bpg). Led by Serge Ibaka’s 3.03 blocks per game.

With this in mind, the Wine and Gold must be strong in attacking the basket in hopes of getting to the free throw line.

Last night against the Raptors, the Cavs shot 20-24 (.833) from the free throw line. They have now shot at least .800 from the line in four of the past five contests. Over that five-game stretch, they are shooting a combined .805 (120-149) from the charity stripe.

Key Matchup

Cavs Forwards vs. Kevin Durant

The Thunder's Kevin Durant has been virtually unstoppable as of late. In his seventh NBA season, Durant has once again continued to improve as a player. A year after becoming just the second player in NBA history (Larry Bird) to average 28+ points while shooting better than 50.0% from the field, 40.0% from 3point range and 90.0% from the free throw line, the former Texas Longhorn has once again found a way to improve his game during the 2013-14 Season.

Durant is currently averaging careerhighs in not only points (31.6 ppg), but also in assists (5.5 apg). On 13 instances this season, Durant has scored 30+ points while registering 10+ rebounds (Durant accomplished the feat just four times during all of last season).

Fortunately for the Wine and Gold, they have two solid perimeter defenders at the small forward position in Luol Deng and Alonzo Gee.

Deng's defensive instincts and length combined with Gee's strength and athleticism should help when trying to contain Durant tonight.

Where to Catch the Action

TV: FOX Sports Ohio, Radio: WTAM 1100, NBA League Pass Audio, XM & Sirius 217

For live in-game updates, follow @cavs, @CavsJoeG, @CavsFredMcLeod, @MrCavalier34, @CavsJMike and @chones22 on Twitter.

Be sure to check for Joe Gabriele's live in-game blog providing instant analysis and game notes. Plus, get into the discussion as die-hard Cavs fans talk about the game on CavFanatic's GameDay Thread.

On Deck

After tonight's game, the Cavs head back home on Friday to face the Utah Jazz at 7:30 p.m. ET.