(Photo by TorreyPurvey.com)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — The new look Cleveland Cavaliers rolled into Oklahoma City Tuesday night for a nationally televised game. It was an opportunity for the Thunder to continue their streak of having success against the best teams in the NBA.
With Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony back in the lineup after missing two games, Oklahoma City had to like its chances of knocking off the Cavs for the second time this season.
However, LeBron James was not having any of that. Surrounded by a new cast of characters, James led Cleveland to a 120-112 victory over the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I thought, overall, it was a good game,” Anthony said. “Their guys shot the ball extremely well tonight. We competed for most of the game so we can take that away from it. [It] sucks losing on our home court, but the effort was there, the competitiveness was there. You got to take your hat off to those guys, they shot the ball extremely well tonight.”
James scored 37 points on 14 of 23 shooting. He also racked up to go along with 8 assists and 8 rebounds. The Thunder had no answer for him as he seemed to be playing with a new level of enthusiasm since the trade deadline brought him four new teammates.
“Well, I am the leader of this team and these guys look for me to lead them every night,” James said. “And the group that came in, they want me to be who I am. It’s up to me to go out and do it. That’s what I have been able to do.”
J.R. Smith hit six 3-pointers on his way to 19 points for Cleveland. Newly acquired Jordan Clarkston and Robert hood each scored 14 points while Larry Nance Jr. added 13 points, 9 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“It’s a change of scenery and they’re just trying to take advantage of it,” James said of his new teammates. “For the guys that were here, we’re just trying to make them as comfortable as possible. Make the transition as seamless as possible.”
Paul George led the Thunder with 25 points and six assists. Anthony added 24 points and seven rebounds. While Westbrook looked rusty from his two-game absence, he still posted 21 points and 12 assists.
However, it was Steven Adams who carried the team earlier and was their leading scorer through three quarters. He finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds in 42 minutes of action.
“[I’m] proud of that guy, man. He just keeps getting better,” Josh Huestis said. “I think a lot of people forget how young he is and how much better he is going to keep getting. He is a monster down there. I am proud of him.”
The Thunder got only 20 points from their bench as Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton were the only reserves to score.
“I’m going to have to go look at the film,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Obviously, every time coming down the floor we want to get the best available shot, the best possession. When Carmelo, Russell, Paul and Steven have their opportunities, I want them to take them. I thought we tried to move the ball.”
For Cleveland, the balance of power in the east seems to have been restored since the trade. They head into the All-Star break feeling good about themselves, which was something they weren’t doing a week ago.
“Koby (Altman) did a heck of a job understanding what this team needed,” James said. “It just wasn’t working out for us. He made the changes he felt best fit our team. Then it’s on me to make sure the new guys that come in, that they fit in and make it as seamless as possible. That’s my job. This is the third game in a row my voice is gone. So I am just trying to have communication at an all-time high for us.”
Coach Tyronn Lue had a more simple explanation of Cleveland’s turnaround.
“I think we have to get back to being the hunters, not the hunted,” Lue said.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com