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Find out the scoop on the CAVS from award-winning sports writer Bob Finnan.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Game 59: Cavs at Thunder

Chesapeake Energy Arena
8 p.m. Wednesday
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: We just witnessed the Cavs' signature win of the season.

They went into Oklahoma City and beat the team with the best record in the Western Conference, second best in the NBA. This is a legitimate NBA title contender.

All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was sensational with 31 points, five rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

The difference in the game was the play of guard Jarrett Jack. He had a season-high 21 points, three rebounds and four assists. Where has that kind of play been all season? The Cavs have been desperate for that kind of effort. They got it tonight, as Jack made 3 of 7 3-point goals.

The Thunder took a 12-point lead, but instead of panicking, they fought back. They battled. They outscored the Thunder in the fourth quarter, 42-28.

Those 42 points tied a season high for the Cavs in a quarter. If they would have executed like that in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, they would have beaten the Raptors. Against OKC, they shot 66.7 percent from the field in the fourth (14 of 21).

All five starters scored in double figures for the Cavs, Center Spencer Hawes finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. 

The Cavs shot 46.5 percent from the field. When they make shots, they're hard to beat.

They didn't exactly shut down the Thunder, just beat them at their own game. Forward Kevin Durant, who came into the game leading the NBA in scoring at 31.7 points per game, was "held" to 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He seemed like he had a quiet 28 points, if that's possible.

He's a legitimate MVP candidate.

Guard Russell Westbrook had 24 points and nine assists.

Forward Serge Ibaka was a beast around the basket with 16 points, a game-high 13 rebounds and four blocks.

Still, the Thunder lost their third game in a row, the last two without center Kendrick Perkins, who has a groin injury.

The Cavs snapped their three-game losing streak. They've won two of the last three games at OKC. They've also won seven of their last 10 meetings against the Thunder.

It's hard to explain. Impossible.

The Cavs, who have won seven of their last 10 games, are four games behind No. 8 seed Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks have lost 10 of their last 11 games.

The Cavs have just 23 games remaining. Can they hang in the playoff race? The players still believe. So, yes, it's possible.

They won for the first time with all three of their injured players - Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles - out of the lineup. I have a feeling Varejao could be back soon, perhaps this weekend. But that's just me talking.

He sure didn't look banged up after the game on Tuesday when I saw him outside the locker room. I'm sure he's champing at the bit to get back on the court.

He's really been missed by the Cavs. They miss his intensity, energy, rebounding and his curly locks (I was just seeing if you were paying attention). 

The Cavs will likely be off on Thursday and host lowly Utah on Friday.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host Utah at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Kevin Durant (6-9, 240)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Serge Ibaka (6-10, 245)
C Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. Steven Adams (7-0, 255)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Thabo Sefolosha (6-7, 222)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Russell Westbrook (6-3, 200)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Thunder - C Kendrick Perkins
Marc Davis, Dick Bavetta, Scott Wall


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