Thunder vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Game Recap – Feb. 21, 2016

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

The fans in Chesapeake Energy Arena had just risen to their feet in utter disbelief at what they had just seen, an incredible fast break punch of a dunk by Russell Westbrook. What happened over the next six minutes, however, put the game completely out of the Thunder’s reach.

A 115-92 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was defined by a crushing 29-7 burst in response to a solid start to the second half by Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club. After a Kevin Durant tip-in, Steven Adams grabbed a defensive rebound and kicked it ahead to Westbrook, who careened through the court, treating Cavaliers defenders like ski slaloms until he uncorked a monster one-handed dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

The bucket made it 66-62 Cleveland with 8:09 to go in the third quarter, but after that it was all Cleveland. Matthew Dellavedova responded with a floater in the lane, then the Cavaliers knocked down four straight free throws before J.R. Smith caught the ball in transition, stepped back behind the three-point line and drained a three-pointer.

In the blink of an eye, the deficit was 13. After a timeout, the Thunder struggled to put the ball in the basket, and it resulted in Cleveland being able to generate high percentage offensive opportunities, mostly with LeBron James as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. When the Cavaliers’ run finally came to a stall, they had built a 95-69 lead, an insurmountable advantage that they held onto through the rest of the game.

“Cleveland played very well this afternoon so give them credit,” Donovan said. “What we’ve been trying to work on is that consistency and defensively it was not there tonight.”

 “They went on a run, we’re missing some shots and then it really bled into our defense there in that third quarter,” Donovan continued. “Pretty much from there, they were able to get way out in front and it was an uphill climb.”

The momentum made a slight, but meaningful turn in the second quarter, when the Cavaliers broke a 39-39 tie with a quick 7-0 burst to make it 46-39 with 5:10 to go. The run started with a James three-pointer and a James fast break layup, leading to a Thunder timeout. After the break, a missed Thunder three-pointer led to a Kevin Love leak out layup.

From there on out the teams played just about even basketball for the rest of the half, but the effect was lasting, as it gave Cleveland the base lead it needed to respond to the Thunder’s run to start the third quarter, then blow the game open in the second half. For the night, the Cavaliers shot 51.3 percent, made 10 three-pointers and knocked down 23-of-27 free throws while out-rebounding the Thunder by 10.

“I thought we came out of halftime with a good mindset,” Westbrook said. “We came out with some stops and got into transition. They weathered the storm and made more shots than we did.”

“We fouled them a lot and they made threes,” Durant said. “They made shots and we didn’t… Three’s, tough two’s and free throws. That’s how they beat us.

 

Watch: Thunder Highlights

 

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Foye Makes His Thunder Debut

Although the game itself is one that Thunder newcomer Randy Foye and his teammates likely won’t be looking back upon fondly, it was an opportunity for the Thunder faithful to see its newest member of the team in uniform. In 13 minutes and 50 seconds of action, Foye played mostly within the flow of the offense and with physicality on defense. He scored two points and dished out an assist, but also took an elbow to the jaw by James that required some minor treatment after the game.

“When I first got in, I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous, but once everything set in, it felt good getting up and down,” Foye said. “It’s not about starting or coming off the bench, it’s about the team and whatever the team needs. Whatever coach needs from me, I’m going to do.”

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By the Numbers

13:50 – Minutes played by Randy Foye in his first action as a member of the Thunder

18 – Second chance points for the Thunder thanks to 14 offensive rebounds on the night

38 – Double-doubles this season for Russell Westbrook as he racked up 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds

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The Last Word

“The more adversity our team faces, the better. That’s the only true way to come together, rise above it and be all that we can be.” – Head Coach Billy Donovan

 

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