Preview: Cleveland At Oklahoma City
When: 3:30 PM ET, Sunday, February 21, 2016
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a distant third place in the Western Conference but still own one more win than the East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will try to keep LeBron James and company from notching their 40th victory when the Thunder host the Cavaliers on Sunday.
Cleveland bridged the All-Star break with four consecutive wins and came out of the vacation with a 106-95 home win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. The Cavaliers hope to debut their latest acquisition on Sunday, with forward Channing Frye expected to begin stretching the floor after being acquired from the Orlando Magic prior to Thursday’s trade deadline. Oklahoma City stumbled out of the break with a 101-98 home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday after squandering a seven-point lead in the final minutes. “The defensive lapses toward the end of the game, we can’t have those,” Westbrook told reporters. “Second half of the season, man, it’s getting close to playoff time. We’ve got to put more pressure on ourselves to be better.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (39-14): Cleveland is the overwhelming favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference and made minor adjustments to the roster instead of swinging for a big deal in front of the deadline. Frye, who is shooting 39.7 percent 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. “Channing Frye is someone we know well,” Cavaliers general manager David Griffin told reporters. “His length, floor spacing ability and locker room presence will impact us positively. He is a great fit with our group, both on the court and off.”
ABOUT THE THUNDER (40-15): Oklahoma City did some tinkering as well with the addition of veteran shooting guard Randy Foye, but team defense remains the biggest concern. “Just a little bit more focus in the fourth,” Durant told reporters after Friday’s loss. “We’ll be fine. I think for the whole game we played a really good defensive game outside of those last few minutes.” The Thunder limit opponents to 43.8 percent shooting on the season, which is good enough for sixth in the league entering the weekend but puts them behind West leaders Golden State and San Antonio.
1. Westbrook handed out a career-high 18 assists on Friday.
2. Cavaliers G Iman Shumpert (sprained left shoulder) is day-to-day.
3. Cleveland has taken the last two meetings but suffered a 103-94 loss in its lone trip to Oklahoma City last season.
PREDICTION: Thunder 106, Cavaliers 101