CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers made a concerted effort to get better on the defensive glass in the second half of their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but when they got a late stop, they failed to secure the loose ball and that turned out to be their last opportunity at a comeback.
With his team up by five points and more than 45 seconds left, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka tipped a rebound out to forward Kevin Durant, who helped ice the game with three free throws in the final moments to seal a 102-95 win over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday.
"They had five offensive rebounds in the second half, but obviously, that was a big one that they got late in the game when it was a two-possession game," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "We had a little bit of momentum at that point, but it was something that plagued us the whole game.
"We just gave up too many offensive rebounds, and on top of that, we didn't get after the 50-50 balls. It seemed like whenever the ball was bouncing on the ground, Oklahoma City got to it."
The Cavaliers surrendered 13 offensive rebounds to the Thunder in the first half, and 18 for the game, which resulted in 18 second-chance points. Those second-chance opportunities helped Oklahoma City score 36 points in the paint.
"That was huge," Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters said. "They were just more aggressive than us. I blame myself, too, for that. I've got to get back down there and help the bigs rebound. You can't always depend on them to get the rebounds.
"I take blame for that tonight. As guards, we've got to rebound too, and I don't think my focus was as good as it should've been on rebounding the ball."
For that one loose ball in the fourth quarter to matter, the Cavaliers had to mount a massive comeback that forced Durant back onto the floor after it looked like his night was finished.
Durant had to come back in the game because the Cavaliers went on a 21-2 run that turned a 95-71 Thunder lead with 6:34 to play into a five-point game when Waiters stole the ball on a full-court press and converted the ensuing layup attempt with 1:12 left in regulation.
"Guys were scrambling, making plays, hustling," point guard Jarrett Jack said. "We knocked down a few shots late to make the game a little more interesting.
"I think we're close. We played against two of the top teams the last couple games with another one coming Saturday. Your room for error against teams such as them is very, very small, thus, we have to get out of the habit of having four or five-minute lulls that allow those teams to get a lead and dictate the pace of the ball game."