INTEGRIS Game Day Report: Thunder vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – Dec. 11, 2014
In early December, most teams in the NBA have one singular goal – to continue growing and building their brand of basketball so that they are playing at their highest level towards the end of the season.
For the Thunder, that goal is first and foremost as it hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night. It will be a tough battle for sure considering the talent in both locker rooms, but the Thunder’s primary focus will be on itself. How the Thunder plays the game is much more critical at this stage of the season than specific matchups between players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving.
“Of course we want to win every game we play, but it’s also an opportunity for us to keep growing, keep building our habits and keep getting better,” Durant explained. “That’s how we look at all of these games. Every game is win-first, but we want to play a great brand of basketball.”
Cleveland comes in having won eight straight games, while the Thunder has won five out of its last six contests over the past two weeks. Both teams are starting to play a better brand of basketball, as NBA squads use this time of the year to build habits and breed consistency. Those are the buzzwords around the Thunder these days in particular, as the team tries to bring the same energy, effort and collective focus to the defensive end of the floor for 48 minutes night.
Against the Cavaliers, who have dynamic scoring options and are aggressive in the paint, the Thunder’s five-man defensive unit will have to be tied on a string, get back in transition and then box out and secure rebounds to close out the possession.
“This team tonight does a really good job of offensive rebounding,” Durant said. “Everybody has to come in and help the bigs rebound.”
“They play fast,” Durant continued. “They’ve been playing well lately. They have three of the best players in the world. Talent trumps a lot of different things in this league.”
Thunder Players Shine with OKC Blue
On Wednesday night, Thunder forwards Mitch McGary and Grant Jerrett were assigned to the Thunder’s Development League team, the Oklahoma City Blue. In a home tilt against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, both players performed well, as did their teammates who are under the tutelage of Head Coach Mark Daigneault.
McGary scored 26 points on 12-for-17 shooting in just 28 minutes of action, while also grabbing nine rebounds, making four steals and blocking four shots. Jerrett shot 4-for-10 from the three-point line, scoring 17 points while also grabbing six rebounds.
The second of the Thunder’s first round selections in the 2014 NBA Draft, Josh Huestis, scored 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 marksmanship from the three-point line. Semaj Christon, who the Thunder acquired on draft night, scored 13 points while dishing out ten assists.
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
Radio: Thunder Radio Network, WWLS the Sports Animal