Cleveland (39-14) at Oklahoma City (40-15)
When: Sunday, February 21st 2016
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Time: 3:35 ET | TV: ABC
The Cleveland Cavaliers look for their 40th victory of the season when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Cleveland finished off a five-game homestand with a 106-95 victory over Chicago on Thursday and now will step out of conference for a big test with the Thunder. The Cavaliers continue to improve offensively under new coach Tyronn Lue scoring over 100 points in nine of their last 11 games. Cleveland added to the offense before the trade deadline by acquiring long-range shooter Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic. Frye, who is shooting 39.7% from 3-point range this season, gives the team another offensive weapon on the perimeter for when defenses collapse around LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. They might see an immediate impact from him as guard Iman Shumpert is questionable for Sunday’s game with a sprained left shoulder. Five players scored in double-figures for Cleveland on Thursday against Chicago led by James’ 25 points. King James just missed out on a triple-double with 9 assists and 9 boards. Kevin Love (15 points) pulled down 15 rebounds – his most since January 21st. Cleveland has taken the last two meetings with the Thunder but suffered a 103-94 loss in its lone trip to Oklahoma City last season.
*** UPDATE *** Channing Frye has not been cleared to play and did not accompany the team to Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City did some tinkering as well with the addition of veteran shooting guard Randy Foye, but team defense remains the biggest concern. The Thunder blew a seven-point lead in the final minutes in losing at home to Indiana in their first game post All-Star Break. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant continue to pour in the points and stuff the stat sheet. Westbrook set a career-high on Friday with 18 assists while scoring 23. Durant added 31 points and 8 rebounds and is now averaging 27.8 points a game on the season. He has broken the 30-point barrier seven times in the last ten games. The Thunder are a distant third in the Western Conference behind Golden State and San Antonio, but have a 3.5 game lead over the Clippers, who are the fourth-seed currently. Between now and March 12th (11 games), the Thunder will play Cleveland (Sunday), Golden State twice, the Clippers twice, and the Spurs. The defense needs to tighten up if they want to be champions of the West.
This should be a fun high-scoring game between these two. I expect Oklahoma City to bounce back strong from the Indiana loss and play much better defense in defeating and covering against the Cavaliers this afternoon.
Pick: Thunder -3