OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 35 points, his fourth consecutive game with at least 30, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-100 yesterday.
Gilgeous-Alexander made 12 of 21 shots and added eight assists and five rebounds. Jalen Williams added 17 points and made all three of his three-point attempts.
“Much better than the first time we played them,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said of a 110-102 loss in December.
“I thought the guys played with great force. The physicality tonight, you’re not beating a team like that the way that we did unless you’re physical. And I thought we were physical on both ends.”
Darius Garland had 31 points and 13 assists for Cleveland, which played again without All-Star Donovan Mitchell because of a groin injury.
The Thunder won for the sixth time in eight games as they contend for a Western Conference play-in berth, while the Cavaliers finished their three-game road swing at 30-21.
“They just made more plays than we did,” said Cleveland coach JB Bickerstaff. “I give them credit, that’s who they are. They’re a team that plays the entire 48, no matter what’s happening. As a basketball fan, it’s fun to watch.”
Oklahoma City jumped out to an early lead before Cleveland’s imposing frontcourt of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen slowed Oklahoma City’s attack.
Cleveland led 54-47 at halftime, despite shooting an abysmal three of 16 from three-point range.
The Thunder erased the deficit to enter the fourth quarter tied at 78 and outscored Cleveland 34-22 in the final 12 minutes to run away with the win.
Josh Giddey had 15 points for the Thunder, which included a crafty reverse layup to put the Thunder ahead 83-81 with nine minutes remaining. Oklahoma City never lost its lead.
“Defensively, we were locked in and executed what we wanted to,” Giddey said. “We spoke prior to the game, we knew they were the best defence in the league. They’ve got a lot of length in the frontcourt. We knew getting stuff at the rim wasn’t going to be easy, so guys made the right plays. … We did a lot of really good things down the stretch there and that’s a really good team. So, I think the way we closed that game out shows we’re trending in the right direction.”
The Thunder shot 52.6 per cent from the floor, while Cleveland finished at 44.3 per cent and made just eight of 29 attempts from three.
Oklahoma City outrebounded Cleveland 46-37.