Fri, 27 May 2022

Darius Garland, Cavs look to top Thunder again

Field Level Media
22 Jan 2022, 17:40 GMT+10

Last time the Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jan. 15 in Oklahoma City, the Cavaliers needed a monster game from Darius Garland.

Big games are becoming the norm for Garland.

He'll get another chance Saturday when the Cavaliers take on the Thunder in Cleveland.

In the last nine games since returning from missing four games, Garland has averaged 20.7 points, 10.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds.

One of those games was his performance against the Thunder, when he had 27 points and a career-high 18 assists to help Cavaliers to a 107-102 win in a game in which Cleveland never led until the fourth quarter.

Cleveland has been one of the surprises of the East as players such as Garland and Jarrett Allen have continued to improve while Evan Mobley has solidified himself as a Rookie of the Year favorite. The Cavaliers are coming off a 117-104 loss at Chicago on Wednesday in a matchup of two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

That loss snapped a five-game winning streak that included wins at Utah and at home over Brooklyn.

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said his team's response to that loss is important.

"Now, it's our opportunity to understand it and see if we can figure our way through it," Bickerstaff said. "We'll keep getting tested, but I trust in our guys that every time we've been tested, we've responded."

Saturday, Cleveland will face a scuffling Thunder team.

Oklahoma City has lost four consecutive games and 11 of its last 13.

The Thunder are coming off a 121-98 loss in Charlotte on Friday night that continued their recent defensive struggles.

While Oklahoma City's defense has been its better side most of the season, ranking in the top half of the league in defensive rating much of the campaign, the Thunder have struggled to string together stops lately.

During their four-game losing streak, Oklahoma City has allowed 112.8 points per 100 possessions. Over the first 41 games, the Thunder's defensive rating was 109.0.

"I'm not too sure what it is," Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said of the defensive woes. "But we're not getting it done defensively, for sure. We have to try to fix that as soon as possible."

Thunder rookie Josh Giddey said it was a matter of effort.

"When we come out and when we want to compete, which we should want to every night, we're a hard team to score against," Giddey said.

Cavs forward Lamar Stevens is listed as probable for the game after missing the last two games with knee soreness.

Cleveland backup point guard Rajon Rondo, who has missed the last five games with a hamstring injury, is questionable. Rondo has played in just three games since being acquired from the Lakers earlier this month.

Oklahoma City's Kenrich Williams returned Friday after missing five games. Derrick Favors has missed the last three games. He was available Friday night but did not see action after missing the previous two games with back soreness.

--Field Level Media

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