On the individual level, LeBron James and Kevin Durant walked away quite even from their latest encounter, but nothing changed on the more important level of the team, as the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the sixth straight time, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-98.
LeBron James scored 34 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting 44% from the field and doing a very good job of getting to the line, making 10-of-13 attempts. Kevin Durant? About the same. He scored 32 points on 12-of-23 from the field, together with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. The story wasn’t these two MVPs going at it for the 19th time in their career, but what their teammates were doing, and right now, James has better teammates.
Maybe it’s a matter of momentum, but it might be more of an issue of finally coming together, something the Thunder still haven’t been able to do this season, or at least not since Durant’s second return from injuries. The Cavaliers are playing excellent basketball since James has returned from his own injury. It’s not just the six wins. It’s everyone finally understanding their role on offense and the defense not looking confused all the time. In their last four wins (all at home) the Cavaliers have yet to allow more than 100 points, winning all four games by 10 points or more.
Kyrie Irving scored 21 points to go with 6 assists in his personal duel with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook might have scored one more point, but it was one of those games in which he does more harm than good. He did finish with 11 assists and 9 rebounds as well, but 7-of-26 from the field isn’t very helpful. The Thunder finished with 39.4% from the field compared to 43.9% by the Cavaliers, also hitting 44.4% of their 3-point shots, getting too many easy looks.
An interesting way in which Westbrook harmed his team were his drives to the basket. Westbrook had 10 drives to the basket, often doing it without actually thinking or trying to see what’s the best option. He missed all of his seven attempts and couldn’t get a single foul drawn. LeBron James drove to the basket 15 times, scoring 13 points off of those attempts, including 7-of-8 from the line, drawing four fouls while attacking the rim.
Kevin Love scored 19 points and J.R. Smith added 14 on a less than accurate day from him. Still, he’s been more useful and helpful than Dion Waiters ever was. Waiters had the opportunity to get revenge against a team he feels never gave him a chance. Waiters scored 14 points on 5-of-15 from the field, but the Thunder are having problems with their offensive balance, as Waiters naturally takes possessions away from Reggie Jackson, who did terribly in his 10 minutes on the floor.
Looking at James’ and Durant’s career numbers against each other, everything is very similar. James scores a bit less but grabs more rebounds, shoots better from the field and dishes out almost three time the assists. The difference comes in the wins column, as this win made it 15-4 in James’ favor including that 2012 Finals series. That might tell us more about James’ teammates than just him, but it also gives us some small indication of who makes their team better and still does.