This is always one of my favorite match-ups of the year. I’ve Aunts and Uncles and cousins in Wichita and OKC, and they pull big-time for KD and the gang. It’s fun to send some trash talk across the great plains. The Tacoma City Plunder, as I call them, come into the game finally healthy and winners of five of the last six, now that reigning MVP, Kevin Durant has returned along with All-Star, Russell Westbrook. KD hasn’t lost much in his four games back, with shooting splits of .492/.316/.889 to go along with 22 points, 5.5 rebounds, and four assists in 29 minutes a night. Westbrook has been similarly stellar, posting a 31.5 PER so far this year, and adding 24.5 points, seven dimes, and six rebounds in 28 minutes a night with splits of .433/.306/.814. Contrast that with LeBron and Kyrie… The head-to-head position battles tonight will be epic.
James Vs. Durant, Irving Vs. Westbrook, Marion Vs. Roberson?, Varejao Vs. Adams… One can’t ever forget block machine, Serge Ibaka when talking of the Thunder. Kevin Love will have his hands full. Jeremy Lamb has also emerged as a solid bench scorer for the Zombie Sonics, averaging 12 points off the bench with a 58.5 TS%. A lanky 6’5″, Jeremy will be a tough match-up for the Cavs bench guys. Add Anthony Morrow, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones, and all-time-tough-guy, Kendrick Perkins, and this Thunder bench is intimidating. Cleveland is going to need big contributions from everyone.
Oklahoma City is still on the outside of the Western Playoff race, looking in. At 8-13 they’re three games back of eighth place Phoenix and 11 games back of the NBA best Warriors. So every game is huge for them right now.
The Cavs, meanwhile, are waiting on a “Game Time Decision” to determine if LeBron James plays tonight. Fortunately, the Cavs have shown they can win without him, taking three of the the last five contests from OKC during the LeBronless years, including one of the biggest Cavs victories last season, a stunning 114-102 February victory in OKC. Given the burgeoning rivalry, I’d be shocked and concerned if the King missed a showdown this big.
Update: LeBron will sit out this game with “general knee soreness.” Matthew Dellavedova will start in his place.