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 nearly seven crucial minutes from their bench in the fourth quarter to shock the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday 114-104. The Cavs scored 42 points in the fourth quarter, 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.
It only counts as one win, but it feels like so much more.
“Because of the opponent, I’m not usually into that, but with where we are right now, especially being a young team figuring out how to win … there’s a lot to add up to this being a very good win for us,” said Mike Brown, who rarely ever ranks one win as being more important than the next. “It could be a confidence booster for a lot of different reasons. Hopefully it is.”
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.
Brown pushed his starters for the bulk of the first three quarters before finally relenting and played his subs. Alonzo Gee, Matthew Dellavedova, Tyler Zeller and Anthony Bennett joined Irving for the first 6½ minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Cavs trailed 76-72 at the start of the fourth, but a 3-pointer from Irving tied it 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 for another four minutes.
“Putting Kyrie with the second group helped us a lot, created a lot of ball movement,” Zeller said. “A couple times they screwed up their rotations and I ended up with wide-open layups.”
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.
“We’re taking every win,” Irving said. “Obviously playing against a great team you’re going to get up for it. Everyone wants to play against a great team like that on their home floor. This game doesn’t mean more than any other. Every game means a lot.”
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. Jarrett Jack had 21 points, Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Zeller had six key points in the fourth quarter when the bench crew wrested 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).
The Cavs became the sixth team this season (third road team) to score 42 points in a fourth quarter. It matched their season high for points in any quarter this season and was the first time they scored that many in a fourth quarter since Nov. 5, 2010, in a win against the Sixers.
More importantly on this night, it kept their playoff hopes flickering.
“I’m not at the point I’m looking at what other teams are doing,” Jack said. “There’s a lot of basketball left to be played and I think if we focus on us, that’ll be the best medicine for us.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.