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News » Thunder makes progress

Thunder makes progress

Thunder makes progress
Two holiday games against the Cleveland Cavaliers are a good barometer for the Thunder. Both short and long term.

The losses show how far Oklahoma City has come in one month. The two losses also show how far the Thunder has to go to evolve into a major playoff contender.

The last time LeBron James faced Oklahoma City, the Cavaliers were so dominant that James played a career-low 17 minutes.

This time, a sellout crowd of 19,136 on Sunday at the Ford Center saw lots of James - dunks and all - a sign the Cavs' 102-91 win was more competitive than the blowout Thanksgiving Eve in Cleveland.

The Thunder matched James and the Cavs bucket for bucket for one half on Sunday. But James and Co. once again showed a young Oklahoma City team how far it has to go to join the league's elite. Cleveland's two wins are two of the three most lopsided since Scott Brooks took over as Oklahoma City coach on Nov. 22.

"We played one of the best teams in the league with one of the best players in the world," Brooks said. "We gave great energy and great effort. We contested their shots. They're not just a good team. They're great."

A month ago, Cleveland led by as many as 42 points, won by 35 and was up by 34 at halftime, the largest halftime lead in franchise history. Sunday night, James scored 31 points and played 42 minutes. The Cavs needed him this time around.

Cleveland led 52-47 at halftime and was up only 74-70 late in the third quarter before the Cavs went on a late third-quarter run to build a double-digit lead. Cleveland eventually led by as many as 18 points.

"One day, that's the (type of team) we want to be," Brooks said. "We are making progress. I liked a lot of things we did we did tonight."

Cleveland is one of the league's hottest teams heading into the holidays. The Cavs are 14-1 the last month and recently had a streak of nine consecutive wins of 12 or more points. That's another reason an 11-point loss can be viewed as progress.

"They embarrassed us the first game," said Kevin Durant. "Tonight, we came out and played hard all the way through. They just made key plays. That's why they're a great team. When they make a run, we have to make a run right back at them."

Oklahoma City is 3-25, the worst record in the NBA, but James and the Cavs noticed the improvement since the first meeting.

"The athleticism they have is hard to match, and that alone will win them some ball games," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. "Because they are young and have won a couple of games and have been close in a couple, their confidence is going to start to grow."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 24, 2008


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