NBA Basketball
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129
Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Cleveland 38 27 28 36 129
Oklahoma City 38 23 14 27 102
102
5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)01:0020:00 ET6:00 PM CT23:00 , April 8, 2021
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Cavaliers, Thunder see budding youngsters as bright spots

According to STATS
According to STATS

Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. The Thunder have won the last five games in this series. That's Oklahoma City's longest current winning streak against one opponent.
  2. The Thunder have lost four straight games for the first time since March 2019, and Oklahoma City has not had a five-game losing streak since a six-game skid in November 2014.
  3. The Cavaliers' 24-point win in San Antonio on Monday tied their largest margin of victory in a game this season; they also had a 24-point win over the 76ers, on December 27.
  4. The Cavaliers are 5-3 when having at least two days of rest this season (as they have for this game), and 13-29 in all other games.
  5. Darius Garland scored a career-high 37 points against the Spurs on Monday in his 100th NBA game. He had not scored more than 29 points in any of his first 99 games in the league.
  6. Last night, Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski became the first pair of rookie teammates each to score 25+ points in the same game since Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson did so for the Cavaliers on March 19, 2012.

Neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Oklahoma City Thunder are currently in playoff position.

But working with an eye toward future success, they enter Thursday's meeting in Oklahoma City with young players providing promise for that future.

For Cleveland, that's been the progress of 21-year-old Darius Garland added to the growth of Collin Sexton.

Garland, a second-year guard, is coming off a career-high 37 points in Monday's win in San Antonio that included scoring or assisting on 10 of the Cavaliers' first 12 third-quarter points, which went a long way toward Cleveland winning.

"That's what leadership is about. That's what growth is about," Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "Aggressive, making his teammates better, reading the defense, reading the game. When the ball is in his hand, he's the lead guard. He's the guy that's pushing that tempo.

"As he goes, the rest of the guys follow."

It hasn't just been his scoring, though, that has the Cavaliers encouraged about his development.

"He was still making sure everyone else was involved," Isaiah Hartenstein said. "That's the thing, especially what a guard needs to do. Even though he was scoring, he shared the ball."

Garland has averaged nearly eight assists per game in the last three.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Cavaliers.

The Thunder are looking to avoid what would be their first five-game losing streak since early in the 2014-15 season, when they dropped six straight.

Oklahoma City has lost by an average of 30 points during that streak, though the margin was just 11 in Tuesday's loss to Charlotte.

Early in that game, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault had an animated exchange with 19-year-old rookie Aleksej Pokusevski.

Daigneault wouldn't reveal the nature of the conversation but said it was part of raising the expectation level of play for the forward who was in Oklahoma City's rotation early, got sent to the G League bubble and then returned and moved immediately into the starting lineup in early March.

"He's just learning. He's learning how to play, he's learning how to compete, and he's learning how to be a high-minute player and a really good player," Daigneault said.

Pokusevski scored a career-high 25 points in Tuesday's loss while Theo Maledon, another 19-year-old rookie, also added 25.

Scoring is nice, Daigneault said, but the overall progression is a much bigger piece.

"We're really optimistic about those guys and a lot of those guys we have," Daignuealt said. "The thing I'm most optimistic about is the approach more so than (the scoring). ... They've improved because of the approach they've taken. They're learning how to be NBA players for the first time. They're learning how to live in America for the first time. They're learning professional habits. They're learning how to take care of their bodies. They're learning about all the little details that add up and go into being a good player."

Thursday's game is the second of two meetings between the teams this season.

Oklahoma City won the first, 117-101, on Feb. 21 in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers have dropped five consecutive games to the Thunder.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 8, 2021

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