This brief but gruesome two-game trip started out as a survival tour. It ended as a redemption tour.
The Cavs lost at Denver last season by 28 points and lost at Oklahoma City by 29. Given how the week started with a six-game losing streak, odds of coming away with two wins on this trip seemed as likely as an NFL team being foolish enough to give up three first-round picks for Robert Griffin III.
Even in their woeful season last year, the Cavs still found ways to score stunning victories over the Celtics, Lakers and Heat. All of those wins came at home. This year, the Cavs' best performances have come on the road, winning big games at Boston, Denver and Oklahoma City. While they did score home victories over the Mavericks and Clippers, the Cavs' best performances have largely come on the road and their most embarrassing efforts (Bulls, Heat) have come at home.
Finding a way to bring that defensive effort and intensity for four quarters at the Q is crucial, not only to the team's long-term success but also to start winning back fans who have vanished from home games in droves. When they play hard and with a purpose, the Cavs are a lot of fun to watch. It's just too bad they've saved some of their best performances for road shows.
Kyrie Irving 9 points, 12 assists*
Antawn Jamison 21 points, 8 rebounds
Anthony Parker 14 points^
Tristan Thompson 8 rebounds, 6 offensive rebounds
Kevin Durant 23 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists
Russell Westbrook 19 points, 4 assists
Serge Ibaka 13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocks
* - career high; ^ - season high
The Thunder went scoreless on six consecutive possessions, spanning nearly three minutes late in the fourth quarter. Durant and Westbrook combined to take -- and miss -- all six shots.
The Cavs inserted their small lineup for about the last four minutes, using Antawn Jamison at center and surrounding him with Irving, Parker, Alonzo Gee and Daniel Gibson. Scott thinks it's his best lineup, particularly to close out games, because it surrounds Jamison with four shooters. Remarkably, Irving, Gibson and Gee combined for six rebounds on the misses during the Thunder's cold stretch. Despite the Cavs' small lineup, the Thunder couldn't grab even one rebound.
“This is, by far, the biggest win of the season." -- Antawn Jamison
“This is a big win for us. I know a lot of people in the world didn’t expect us to win these two games.” -- Kyrie Irving
The Cavs (15-23) host the Houston Rockets (21-19) on Sunday.