The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder shared the court, the result, a 148-124 loss, was not good for LeBron James and his teammates, but they have a chance at redemption at the Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight.
The Cavaliers (33-22) and Thunder (32-25) will close out the pre-NBA All-Star Game portion of the schedule tonight in Oklahoma City, and for Cleveland, the road to a response win starts on the defensive end of the floor.
“We can’t give up 150 points,” James said. “It doesn’t matter what guys you have and who you’re competing against. If you give up 150, you’re not going to win many games. Defensively, that’s where it’s going to start.
“It was a combination of a lot of things. It was a ball going into our hoop on the defensive end problem more than anything. Obviously, when you’re not getting stops and you’re playing behind the eight-ball the whole game, it’s just tough to get back into that. They were in such a good rhythm.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers look for redemption win over Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder shot a blistering 58 percent (58 of 100) from the field and 46.7 percent (14 of 30) from three-point range in the first matchup against the Cavaliers. Additionally, they hustled their way to 16 offensive rebounds, 28 free-throw attempts, nine steals and 37 assists.
“Get back on defense,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of the lesson learned from the first game with the Thunder.
“They really came in pushing the pace against us. Just watching the game, early on, we missed a lot of shots, missed shots bad. We had open shots that we didn’t make, and they really pushed the tempo against us, so we’ve got to make sure we get back, load to (Russell) Westbrook and get out to their shooters.”
The Cavaliers enter the rematch against the Thunder a much different-looking team than they were three weeks ago.
At the trade deadline, the Cavaliers turned over their roster quite a bit.
The Cavaliers made three deals in the final hours that saw six players (guards Iman Shumpert, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade and forwards Channing Frye and Jae Crowder) and a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft get dealt in exchange for Clarkson, Hood, Hill and forward Larry Nance Jr., as well as a future selection.
“Just continue to build off last game,” James said of the Cavaliers’ mindset. “I think our effort and our attention to detail was really high. You want to try to continue that going into tonight.”
Lue added, “We have a lot of different guys. The same thing happened with Minnesota. We went there and they killed us. We came back home and had a good game. The same thing with Boston the last time we played them, so it’s a long season. There are ups and downs throughout the course of a season, but right now, we made a trade and it kind of rejuvenated us. Now, we’ve just got to keep building.”