NBA

Durant, Thunder Face Biggest Test of the Season Against LeBron, Cavs

Durant, Thunder Face Biggest Test of the Season Against LeBron, Cavs

Six straight. It’s not quite the 24-win monstrosity that the Warriors attained earlier this season (thanks, Bucks), but hey, baby steps. Next up is arguably the toughest matchup of the year for OKC: visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland will still be without Kyrie Irving, so Russell Westbrook will be licking his chops to get at Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova. Both guards give up 104 points per 100 possessions, the second highest total on the team.

Durant, as usual, will draw LeBron James’ coverage. Durant will certainly get his points, but James is arguably the best perimeter defender on the planet. It’s a matchup that reminds TNT commentator Marv Albert of the greatest player of all time: “I always get a kick out of LeBron, he’s so good defensively when he digs in, and you know at times he will match up with Kevin Durant,” he said. “It reminds me of the days of Michael Jordan, when he would do that.”

David Blatt’s offense is somewhat similar to contemporary, successful offense like the Warriors, Spurs, and Hawks: the ball swings around the perimeter, there lots of on-ball and off-ball screens, spot up shooters hang out on the three-point for spacing.

What those offenses don’t have is LeBron James. He’s been in the league for 12 years now, so everyone is well aware of what he does to run an offense: he has transcendent vision, elite passing skills, and the mindset to involve his teammates and make them better. With Kyrie Irving out, James has developed an excellent rapport with Kevin Love, who is at once a gifted post scorer, three-point shooter, rebounder, and outlet passer.

It’ll be important for OKC to get a quick start on offense against the Cavs. If they can do so, it will have Cleveland’s defense on their heels, and more importantly, force James to expend more energy on defense than offense. This is the Thunder’s biggest road test thus far. We’ll find out at 7 p.m. on TNT if OKC can push their streak to seven games.

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