Cleveland, OH – The Thunder looked to start the season 2-0 for the first time in a long while in Cleveland taking on the Cavs in their home opener.
The Thunder were riding a little bit of a high after handling the Bulls Wednesday night pretty easily but the Cavs would be a tougher matchup for them.
The Thunder were ready though. Led by Lu Dort, the Thunder came out with great intensity and energy on both ends of the floor and had the Cavs a little flustered to start. The Cavs settled in but the Thunder didn’t let go of control of the game one bit and had another 30 point opening quarter.
In the second the Thunder really locked in on the defensive end as a unit and it was fun to watch. They looked like they were doing the shell drill. They held the Cavs to only 16 points on 6-24 from the floor in the frame and took a 10 point lead into the half.
The Cavs were able to get back into the game after bringing much more energy and intensity to the game than the Thunder which was a little uncharacteristic from what we saw from the Thunder last season. They still were able to get out of the quarter with a lead though.
The beginning of the 4th proved to be very important for both teams because the Thunder started the quarter with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the bench while the Cavs started it with Donovan Mitchell on the floor. The Thunder were able to keep the game even and that meant it was going to come down to which team could be more clutch.
That was the Thunder. On both ends of the floor.
They were the team that came up with the more clutch shots and got the much needed stops to get a down the stretch 108-105 victory.
Here are the 3 reasons for the win:
The Thunder calling card is their defense. That isn’t a secret at all.
They were phenomenal all night on that end of the floor. When their offense was struggling, their defense stepped up even more. As mentioned above, it looked like they were practicing the shell drill at times with how in sync they were.
Chet Holmgren led the way with his efforts all night but it wasn’t just him. The whole team contributed on that end of the floor and if they can match that the whole season they will win a lot of games.
2) Taking Smart Shots
The Thunder shot 46% from the field and 50% from 3 and although those are pretty good numbers, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the shots they were able to get.
In a game like this, where a lot of shots weren’t falling in a very hostile environment against a very good defense, it was very important for the Thunder to not take any bad shots because that could have been the difference between a win and a loss. For them to be a very young team that knows they need to take smart shots is very impressive.
3) Same Poise As Last Season
The poise that the Thunder showed last season showed up against the Cavs.
There were so many times they could have folded and just given up but the fight never left. It was especially important on the defensive end.
The Thunder got down by 10 very late in the 4th and that could have been an easy spot for them to just mail it in but they instead showed a lot of poise on the defensive end to get stops and then they showed a lot of poise on the offensive end to take some very smart shots that won them the game.
The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who had another 30 point game with 34 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, and 4 assists. Chet Holmgren had a pretty special night himself with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocks. He’s the first Thunder rookie to have a 15p 10r 5b game and now has the Thunder rookie record for most blocks in a game. Lu Dort had a bounce back game with 25 points and 6 rebounds while Jalen Williams added 14 points and 5 rebounds.
Thunder will look to make it 3 in a row in their home opener when they take on the champs, the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.