OKLAHOMA CITY: The Cavaliers shook up their bench rotation like a snow globe Sunday night, but the results looked awfully similar – scattered and messy.
Omri Casspi and Jon Leuer are in, C.J. Miles and Samardo Samuels appear to be out. The faces changed, but the lack of production didn’t in the Cavs’ 106-91 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Daniel Gibson had 16 points off the bench, but the rest of the Cavs’ reserves totaled 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting. As has been the case on this trip, the bulk of the damage came early in the fourth quarter while the Cavs’ starters were resting.
Russell Westbrook’s 3-point heave from just inside the half-court stripe gave the Thunder an enormous emotional boost and changed the complexion of what was a three-point game. Westbrook’s 31-foot missile gave the Thunder a 79-73 lead entering the fourth, then he sunk two more within the first two minutes to stretch the lead to 12. The Cavs never really recovered.
“I’m just looking for somebody besides Boobie Gibson to step up off the bench,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “I know we’re missing Tyler, but we really need someone to step up.”
Compounding matters was Scott’s apparent unhappiness with Dion Waiters, who didn’t get off the bench in the fourth quarter. Waiters had eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, but Donald Sloan and Gibson began the fourth quarter on the court together and Sloan stayed there until Kyrie Irving was ready to return.
Asked if it was Gibson’s hot hand or an issue with Waiters, Scott merely said, “little bit of both. We’ll leave it at that.”
Scott refused to elaborate, although he said Waiters’ bruised right thigh was not an issue.
Waiters was surprised he didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Asked if he thought he was playing OK, he responded, “I was 3 for 6.” Told of Scott’s remark, Waiters was asked if he thought defensive issues kept him out of the game.
“No,” he said. “I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”
Scott can’t explain the lack of production out of his bench, either. He yanked Samuels after four minutes because he had already racked up two fouls. Scott was particularly annoyed because his second foul, when he arrived late on Serge Ibaka, was something he was scolded for in practice on Saturday.
Scott turned to Leuer, but he and Casspi were a combined 3-of-15. Casspi was 1-of-7.
“That’s almost the same as what C.J. was doing,” Scott said. “But it’s the first game he’s played, so you’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a chance. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Casspi conceded he was a little anxious after he was virtually ignored through the first six games.
“I wasn’t comfortable and I was a bit nervous to finally be playing,” he said. “It’s just the first game. I know I didn’t shoot it well, but it’s just getting into a rhythm and getting time.”
Scott will stick with Casspi and apparently Leuer in his rotation for a few more games to see if the results improve. If not, he’ll spin the bench again and see what turns up.
Irving had 20 points, including 10 in the third quarter when the Cavs pulled within three late. Alonzo Gee had 18 points and Gibson was hot off the bench.
Gibson’s biggest error may have been failing to foul Westbrook before his launch at the end of the third quarter. The Cavs had a foul to give and Scott wanted them to use it before he could get a shot off.
“That shifted the momentum,” Scott said. “We didn’t do what we wanted to do and what we should have done.”
The Cavaliers conclude this six-game trip on Tuesday at the Brooklyn Nets.