When Russell Westbrook spiked a highlight dunk four minutes into the third quarter to light up the crowd, it felt like it might be game-changing. It was, but not for the Thunder, with the Cavaliers closing the quarter on a 29-11 run and cruising to a 115-92 win on Friday.
Even with Kyrie Irving playing just nine minutes due to flu-like symptoms, Cleveland's victory against the Western Conference's dark horse contender was decisive. The first half was tight and highly entertaining, with dunks and alley-oops and quality plays going both ways. Oklahoma City led by one after the first quarter, but the Cavaliers pulled out to a 62-53 lead by halftime.
The Thunder briefly showed life to begin the third, capped off by this brutal Westbrook crossover on Matthew Dellavedova and tomahawk finish.
But instead of being the momentous play that it felt like it could be, Cleveland tightened up and pulled away. Kevin Love led the way with 29 points on 9-of-18 shooting, plus 11 rebounds, and Richard Jefferson had a solid game off the bench with 15 himself.
1. LeBron James can and will take over
It feels like James has been around the NBA for ages, and his everyday brilliance hasn't shown up quite as frequently this season. He's obviously playing for the playoffs.
But in a playoff-type game against one of the West's very best, James dominated, showing off his passing without Irving on the floor to facilitate. He finished with 25 points on 11-of-22 shooting and seven rebounds to go with 11 assists, making life unbearable for Oklahoma City during that decisive third-quarter run.
2. Dion Waiters is an unmitigated disaster
Waiters started 0-of-7 in Sunday's game and is 1-of-14 since the All-Star break, casting further doubt that he will ever provide consistent contributions for Oklahoma City. Waiters has had some good stretches with the Thunder since they traded for him last year and he's recently been starting games for them, but he's shooting under 40 percent for the year. The missed shots weren't even his worst moment, with this fast break taking the honors.
Dion Waiters gets a chance for a dunk on a 2 on 1 fastbreak and he...travels— Someone's An Idiot (@SomeonesAnIdiot) February 21, 2016
(via @NOTSCWill) pic.twitter.com/0kzVQkYT56
The end of the Waiters era in Oklahoma City may be close. The Thunder traded for Randy Foye at the deadline, and while he played poorly on Sunday he should be a clearly better option at shooting guard for Billy Donovan headed into the season's final stretch.
3. Richard Jefferson's quiet contributions
Jefferson actually had a commitment to the Mavericks this summer before the DeAndre Jordan deal went south, and after gaining permission from Mark Cuban, Jefferson jumped ship to go to the Cavaliers. He's been great for them, a solid contributor off the bench who comes up steady, and his night was solid once again. While he may not play much in the playoffs, Jefferson was a nice pickup for Cleveland this summer.