OKLAHOMA CITY – Tristan Thompson, the Cleveland Cavaliers team leader, said Wednesday morning that the next step for the growing Cavaliers was the end of the games.
Like many things, it's still a work in progress.
The shorthanded Cavaliers, with only nine players dressed, played the same thunder for a half. Only they could not continue until the end, losing 100-83.
Too much talent. Too deep. Too stingy in defense.
The night began with the exchange of Kyle Korver at Utah Jazz, depriving Cleveland of a key reserve. Korver had scored 22 points Monday night at the top of the season against the Timberwolves and was starting to be more comfortable in his role. While George Hill was already absent due to a sprained right shoulder, David Nwaba was injured in the knee and Sam Dekker is still blocked by a sprained ankle. The Cavs ran out of gas in the second half.
Jordan Clarkson scored 16 points in the first period. He only scored nine in the second, five in the final minutes, while the match was already out of reach.
"They were very good at putting us out in the second half," Clarkson said at the end of the match. "We stayed there, we reduced our backlog to 10 hours and we still had chances to win, we were shorthanded, we had a chance to compete and win, but we did not just not finished. "
Cedi Osman was scoreless in the second half after scoring 14 goals in the first. Osman, who spent most of his evening defending the most valuable former player, Russell Westbrook, continued to shoot his shorts during the game. He was clearly exhausted. Keeping Westbrook will do that.
"We fought really well, but we were tired," said Osman. "It's not an excuse, we were playing really well, but at one point we stopped, we were looking at each other and we did not know what to do on the field. Our rhythm, when we stop playing with rhythm, our rhythm breaks.
Thompson struggled to keep up with the cumbersome Steven Adams, finishing with four points on two of the eight in the standings and two rebounds of the season.
Admittedly, it was not the best night to measure Cleveland's closing ability. When Thompson spoke earlier in the day, he was referring to the performance of the fourth quarter and the end-of-game performance. Wednesday night, at this point in the game, the Cavs had a double-digit deficit.
The task of the Cavs was made more difficult before the coup with the sudden trade of Korver and the lack of healthy bodies. Still, it's the eighth time they're tied up or led at half-time. Cleveland has only won four victories in these games.
For the second game in a row against the Thunder, the Cavs simply could not match Oklahoma City's level for 48 minutes. In Cleveland, they lost the game late in the fourth quarter. Wednesday night was the third, 26-15 of 25.
After scoring 28 points in an explosive first quarter, the Cavs scored just 55 points for the rest of the way. A first half of 47 points was followed by 36 in the second.
It's not how they start, but how they end.
The historic night of Collin Sexton is not enough
Sexton, who finished 21 points out of 9 out of 20 and repeated a quarterly chirping on the Thunder Bank, also grabbed 10 rebounds, her first double-career double.
Sexton became the Cavs' first rookie to record at least 20 points and 10 rebounds since Thompson made it on March 19, 2012.
Westbrook cradles the baby
Thunder star Westbrook loves to play beginners. While there was only 3:41 left in the second quarter, Westbrook grabbed a rebound, pushed the ball quickly forward and fired a lay-up attempt that he failed. But Westbrook hooked Sexton's rebound and made the putback.
Then he bowed before the rookie Cavaliers before rocking.
It was Westbrook's party of choice, but it was particularly fitting that night, with Westbrook playing Sexton for the first time. In the front line because of an ankle injury at the first meeting, Westbrook made it clear that the teenager was not developed enough to deal with both the size, the strength, speed and athleticism.
A few possessions later, Sexton took up the defensive challenge. He squatted in his posture with an intense look in his eyes before forcing Westbrook to give the ball to Jerami Grant, who missed a 3-pointer.
For the most part, the match went to Westbrook, who once again put Sexton to sleep in the fourth quarter, smiling at the rookie following another ugly move that resulted in a pull over Sexton.
Westbrook recorded his third triple-double of the season, scoring 23 points to complete with 19 rebounds and 15 assists.
The Cavs will complete their two-game trek against the Boston Celtics on Friday night. This will be the first game of a back-to-back game, with a starting game for 19h.