By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Forward Kevin Durant knows what a slump feels like. His first year in Oklahoma City, the Thunder had one of the worst teams in the NBA.
So when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Thunder 114-104 Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena and handed them a third straight defeat, Durant tried to find a silver lining, even as his head and shoulders slumped in dejection.
“We good,” Durant responded when asked if his frustration was at an all-time high. “We started off 3-29 (2009). Nothing gets worse than that.”
The loss was the third straight at home for the Thunder (43-15), all since guard Russell Westbrook returned to the lineup. They have not lost that many in a row at home since 2009, their first year in Oklahoma City.
“It’s not the worst,” Westbrook said. “We lost a string of 29 when I first got here.”
Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving caused much of the Thunder frustration in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
After another 3-pointer by Irving and a tough layup in traffic by center Spencer Hawes, the Cavs (23-26) led 103-97 with 3:05 left.
Durant responded with a jumper before Hawes answered with a mini-hook shoot. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka missed an easy layup at the rim that would have cut the deficit to four.
Instead, Irving came down and completed a three-point play to give Cleveland a seven-point advantage with 1:26 left.
After Westbrook missed a shot, Cavs guard Jarrett Jack put the contest away with a jump shot over Ibaka to push the lead to 11 with less than a minute left.
“The Thunder are a tremendous team, especially in this building,” Jack said. “They’re a championship-contending type of team, and they’re going to make those runs. We just have to do our best to weather the storm and still stay as even-keeled as possible.”
Irving led all scorers with 31 points to go along with nine assists, five rebounds and four steals. Jack scored 21 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Hawes added 19 points and seven rebounds. Forward Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Durant paced the Thunder with 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Westbrook chipped in with 24 points and nine assists. Ibaka had a solid night with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We gave up 42 points in the fourth quarter,” Durant said. “I can’t even explain it. Defense is more about second and third effort. Energy and effort. Knowing the schemes and just playing hard. We’ll be all right.”
Despite the recent rumors of him leaving Cleveland, Irving showed no signs that he’s letting the talk get to him. He started the night attacking the Thunder with his dribble and his shot. That included breaking down guard Thabo Sefolosha for a layup in the first period.
“He’s a great player,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It seems like he has the ball on a string. His layup game is one of the best in basketball, and his 3-point shooting is really good. You have to make sure you don’t give him any easy shots.”
Cleveland had a four-point lead with less than a minute to go in the first half, but consecutive buckets by Durant and Westbrook put the Thunder up 52-51 heading into halftime. That included Westbrook draining a 3-pointer in Irving’s face before the buzzer sounded.
“We lost,” Westbrook said. “No matter how I play, I could make 50 points, but if we lose, it doesn’t matter. This league is all about wins. It’s not about individual performances. Every night you want to come out and win games. It’s based on winning games, whether or not you win a championship.”
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