OKLAHOMA CITY: Just when they were left for dead, just when the season looked lost, the Cavaliers came up with their most stunning victory of the season.
Kyrie Irving had 31 points and nine assists, Spencer Hawes had 19 points and the Cavs received seven critical minutes from their bench in the fourth quarter to shock the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday 114-104. The Cavs ended their three-game losing streak and pulled within four games of the final spot in the playoffs while handing the Thunder just their sixth home loss of the season.
The Cavs were playing the second night of a back-to-back and remain without three key figures in Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles. But they rallied from 12 down in the third quarter to win for the third time in the last four games in this series and hand the Thunder their third consecutive home loss for the first time in five years.
Mike Brown pushed his starters for the bulk of the first three quarters and finally relented and played subs Alonzo Gee, Matthew Dellavedova, Tyler Zeller and Anthony Bennett, along with Irving, for the first half of the fourth quarter.
The Cavs trailed 76-72 at the start of the fourth, but a 3-pointer from Irving tied the game at 86 and a jumper from Bennett on the next trip down gave the Cavs the lead. When Thunder coach Scott Brooks put Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back in the game, Brown stuck with his subs.
By the time Alonzo Gee had a steal and dunk, the Cavs had a 90-86 lead and Brooks was forced to call a timeout with 7:11 left.
Brown eventually returned to his starters while clinging to a 93-92 lead. When Irving made a 3-pointer and Hawes followed with a basket at the rim, the Cavs had a 103-97 lead.
When Irving drove the lane for the basket and was fouled by Serge Ibaka, the lead was 108-99 with 1:26 left and the stunning victory was complete.
Hawes took advantage of Kendrick Perkins’ absence to a groin injury and torched rookie Steven Adams for 19 points and seven rebounds, including three 3-pointers. Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Zeller had six key points in the fourth quarter when the bench crew wrestled away control of the game.
Durant had 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder and Westbrook, in his fourth game since returning from a knee injury, had 24 points and nine assists in his most extensive minutes since returning (30).
But for at least one night, the Cavs’ playoff hopes are still flickering.