Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Thunder deals slumping Cavaliers 8th straight loss

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Cleveland Cavaliers haven't lost this many games in a row since LeBron James was an 18-year-old rookie just getting started in the NBA.

And the timing couldn't be worse: After a 106-77 blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night, guess who's waiting to pile on next?

King James and his new team, the suddenly surging Miami Heat.

"I'm not even thinking about Miami," coach Byron Scott said. "Right now, my biggest concern is those guys in that locker room. I'm not thinking about Miami or the next game. It's just about getting those guys to start understanding a little bit more of what we have to do as a team."

Kevin Durant scored 25 points, and Jeff Green and James Harden added 19 apiece as Oklahoma City handed Cleveland its eighth straight loss -- the franchise's longest slide since losing that many in November and December of 2003 to fall to 4-15 at the start of James' career.

The Cavaliers have four losses of at least 20 points during their current slide, starting with the 118-90 thumping in James' homecoming on Dec. 2. Minnesota delivered a 35-point blowout two nights later for Cleveland's most lopsided loss of the season. There was also a 20-point loss to Philadelphia in that stretch.

And Miami? The Heat have climbed into second place in the East with an eight-game winning streak heading into Monday night's game against New Orleans and will be waiting for Cleveland to arrive on Wednesday.

"It doesn't matter. You've got to come to work every day," said Mo Williams, who was limited to nine points. "It's going to be the next challenge, and it happens to be Miami. We've got to go to Miami and play really well to get a win there."

The Cavaliers fought back from a 22-point, first-half deficit to briefly get within nine. Oklahoma City closed the third quarter on a 19-1 run and stretched its lead to 30 several times in the fourth.

Anthony Parker led Cleveland with 12 points, Daniel Gibson scored 11, and Anderson Varejao had a season-high 16 rebounds, matching a career-high nine on the offensive end.

The Cavs have had the highest scoring bench in the NBA this season, but Scott recently did some tinkering to get some added punch in the starting lineup. Now, he's got a new problem.

"Our first unit is doing a pretty good job. I've got to find a combination of that second unit that's going to come in and play the right way and do the right things," Scott said. "As soon as all five guys are off the floor, we're just getting slaughtered."

Scott still had three starters on the floor when Oklahoma City started its run that put the game away late in the third, and it only got worse as more reserves came in.

Durant had seven points, including a 3-pointer and a right-handed dunk, and Harden added a two-handed alley-oop dunk. Eric Maynor provided the finishing touches with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 86-58 entering a final quarter with both teams' starters remaining on the bench.

"I thought our defensive effort was great tonight," Durant said. "We played well on both ends of the floor and our defense tonight led to some easy baskets for us."

The Thunder turned in a highlight-filled performance in the first quarter, with regular jump shots anything but the norm. Durant had three of Oklahoma City's five dunks and one of the team's three 3-pointers as the Thunder zoomed to a 31-13 advantage.

Durant drove for a right-handed jam, slammed down a Russell Westbrook alley-oop with two hands and then had another right-handed dunk on a fast break -- only to get upstaged. Harden drove into J.J. Hickson on a fast break and delivered an in-your-face, left-handed power slam to finish an 11-0 burst.

He followed that by scoring eight points in a row early in the second quarter -- including a more routine, two-handed dunk on a fast break -- and the Thunder opened a 22-point lead before Cleveland finally came to life.

Gibson and Antawn Jamison had bookend 3-pointers in a 10-0 surge that got the Cavs within 53-43 in the final minute before halftime. They'd never be within single digits in the second half, reaching another low point before their second reunion with James.

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