Oklahoma City Will Not Have Enough Thunder in Cleveland

cavs thunder

Matthew Jordan

Friday, January 19, 2018 3:52 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 3:52 PM UTC

It’s a great start to an NBA Saturday this week as Oklahoma City visits Cleveland in a star-studded matinee that is nationally televised (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC).

Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland CavaliersFree NBA Pick: CavaliersBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s the first ABC national TV game of the season as Oklahoma City and Cleveland tip off at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday from Quicken Loans Arena – a nice warmup for the Warriors-Rockets ABC prime-time matchup that will be previewed here at SBR as well.

It’s the first meeting of the season between the new-look Thunder and Cavaliers. They split last year, each winning at home. In Cleveland, it was a 107-91 final. LeBron James averaged 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists in the two games. Russell Westbrook averaged 24.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.5 assists but also 5.5 turnovers. He had a triple-double both games but shot only 7-for-26 in Cleveland.

Oklahoma City is 2-6 all-time in Cleveland and has failed to cover five straight on the NBA odds there.

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.@russwest44 was in his bag tonight! 👀 pic.twitter.com/sHjJ0Ls9vI

— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 18, 2018
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No Sitting Stars On Saturday!

You may remember last season that teams like the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers rested some stars in these ABC marquee matchups. That embarrassed the NBA, and Commissioner Adam Silver instituted some rules this offseason to ensure that didn’t happen again. The NBA has protected 22 “marquee” national TV games, and Silver can fine teams at least $100K if they rest healthy players in them. Silver also ensured that no teams playing in these marquee games will be playing the second of a back-to-back or third game in four nights.

The Thunder and Cavaliers both made big trades in the offseason for one goal: to beat the Warriors. Doesn’t look like either will work. Cleveland was linked to both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George at one point, but of course both were traded to the Thunder. Some believe Melo and LeBron could team up in Houston next season or that George and LeBron could with the Lakers. The Cavs traded Kyrie Irving to Boston, and that appears to have backfired thus far.

The only way George re-signs with OKC is if the Thunder (25-20 SU, 18-27 ATS) go deep in the playoffs. They have been wildly inconsistent. Since the start of November, OKC has had three streaks of at least four losses in a row. It also has had four of at least three. The Thunder are trending up right now with three consecutive wins, albeit against dregs Charlotte, Sacramento and LA Lakers.

Westbrook is nearly averaging another triple-double at 24.8 ppg, 9.8 apg and 9.7 rpg. Anthony is averaging 17.4 points per game this season, a career low, but has looked more comfortable since Christmas in shooting 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep. The Thunder got back their best perimeter defender Wednesday in guard Andre Roberson. He had been out since late December with a knee injury. Roberson might get some time on LeBron, but it largely should be George, who leads the league in steals, guarding James.

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LeBron went behind the back and BETWEEN A DEFENDER'S LEGS. pic.twitter.com/opqcb56YpM

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 19, 2018
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The good news for Cleveland (27-17 SU, 12-31-1 ATS) is that it ended a four-game losing streak and won for just the third time in its past 11 games Thursday. That bad news is that it was by just one point at home over a terrible Orlando Magic team, 104-103. The Cavs took their foot off the gas and blew a 23-point lead. Isaiah Thomas hit the winning free throws with 11 seconds left. The Magic’s Aaron Gordon actually hit a 45-footer as the buzzer, but officials ruled he had committed a jump-ball violation to get the ball.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," James said afterward. LeBron needs 25 points to become the seventh player in NBA history with 30,000 career. Cleveland’s bench got a little deeper Thursday as Derrick Rose played for the first time since Nov. 7 (ankle injuries) and had nine points in 13 minutes.

The Cavs are a terrible defensive team right now and out of sync, but I also think they are a bit bored. The Thunder will get their attention, and these early-afternoon starts always benefit the home team (even though the Cavs are a nearly impossible 3-17-1 ATS there). OKC is just 4-12 ATS in its past 16 vs. teams with a winning record.

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