Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort
(Jimmy Do | OKC Thunder)

Preview: Thunder vs. Cavaliers

TIP-OFF: 7 p.m. CST

TV: Bally Sports Oklahoma

RADIO: WWLS/WKY

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com

Following a two-game trip out east, the Thunder returns to Paycom Center for a brief matchup at home to host the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a strong 130-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday where OKC recorded season highs in multiple offensive categories, the Thunder will look to continue its stretch of strong offensive execution against the Cavs who hold the third best defensive rating in the league. 

Game Day: OKC vs. CLE

WHAT TO WATCH

  • First Punch – Part of the Thunder’s success against the Nets on Thursday was its ability to throw the first punch and command an early lead in the ball game. Over the last two games, Oklahoma City has averaged 34.5 first quarter points and shot at an efficient 56 percent clip from the field. Being the aggressors and setting the tone early will be key against the Cavs who average the highest first half point differential in the league at plus-five. 
  • Offensive Execution – The Thunder’s offense fired on all cylinders against the Nets which led to season highs in several offensive categories including points, field goal percentage, 3-pointers made and assists. Keep an eye on how the Thunder maintains that high-level offensive execution against a defensive-minded Cleveland team who holds the third-best defensive rating in the league and holds its opponents to just 102 points per contest – the second lowest in the league. 
  • Free Throw Line Battle – Watch for the free throw numbers in this one. Neither the Cavs nor the Thunder have developed the reputation of being foul-prone teams. In fact, Cleveland allows the second-fewest free throw attempts per game while the Thunder allows the fourth fewest. As the Thunder works to attack the basket and play downhill, be on the lookout for the free throw line numbers and who can hold the advantage throughout the ball game.  

NOTABLE

With 14 points in just 12 minutes of action, Thunder veteran big man Mike Muscala has now logged four games this season where he has generated more points than he’s played minutes. The pick-and-pop specialist went a perfect 4-for-4 from deep against the Nets while also logging a block and a steal in the ball game. 

“When you're as good of a shooter as he is, points rack up fast,” said Gilgeous-Alexander who assisted on three of Muscala’s four 3-pointers. “He's been great all season. He comes in and gives us minutes, never complains, keeps his head down. A for sure leader for us. He was himself [on Thursday.]”

(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

QUOTABLE

“I feel like in general, each month our office has gotten better. It's just us putting in the work watching the film and then trusting the changes that we're making and implement them into the game.”

Darius Bazley on the Thunder’s offensive improvement
(Nathaniel S. Butler | NBAE via Getty Images)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on what the win in Brooklyn represented…

“When we play the right way we give ourselves the best chance every night. We looked good tonight. We were playing aggressive, downhill, touching the paint and then making the right basketball decisions for most of the night and it resulted in a good 'W'”.

SCOUTING REPORT

Cleveland enters Oklahoma City on the second night of a back-to-back after facing the Spurs on Friday. Offensively, the Cavs are headlined by Darius Garland who averages 19 points per contest and who recently posted a triple double against the Jazz on January 12. Outside of Garland, the Cavs tout significant size throughout its lineup including Jarrett Allen (16.7 ppg) at the five-spot, rookie 7-footer Evan Mobley (14.9 ppg) and stretch-four Lauri Markkanen (13.5 ppg) in the front court.