LeBron James scored 17 of his 37 points in the third quarter as the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers outgunned the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-112 on Tuesday night.
Cleveland held strong in the third quarter then took command in the fourth to post their second consecutive win since trading for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance. “We came in with a great game plan and we executed,” said James.
They are 4-0 in their last four contests and Tuesday’s performance was a huge improvement from their last game against the Thunder. JR Smith added 18 points and drained six three pointers for the Cavaliers, who lost to the Thunder 148-124 on January 20 with a very different roster.
Cleveland have also scored at least 120 points in four consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. James said the new players are starting to fit in and he hopes the team doesn’t lose its momentum because of the all-star break.
“We continue to help each other out even when it doesn’t look like it is going great for us. We figure it out on the fly. The worst thing right now is us going into this break,” he said of the mid-season break, which begins on Friday. The game marked the return of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder lineup. They both missed the last two games with ankle injuries.
Paul George scored 25 points and Anthony had 24 in the loss. Steven Adams added 22 points and 17 rebounds and Westbrook finished with 21 points.
James scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, including two three-pointers, to give Cleveland a 78-68 lead. The Thunder responded with an 8-0 run to get back into the game but the Cavaliers led 91-87 heading into the final quarter.
The Cavaliers also led 62-57 at halftime as James had 16 points, four rebounds and five assists in the first half. Elsewhere, DeMar DeRozan poured in a team-high 27 points, while Kyle Lowry added 22 as the Toronto Raptors survived a late rally from the Miami Heat to win their sixth straight game.
The Raptors improved to 40-16 on the season and increased their lead over the Boston Celtics to one game for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
It was another case of solid home cooking for the Raptors who have only lost four games at home all season. They also equalled a season high with their sixth straight win at home. Goran Dragic led the Heat with 28 points, including 16 points in the third quarter.
Dwyane Wade picked up a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists off the bench. It was his third game since returning to the club in a trade with the Cavaliers on Thursday.
“We had a bad three or four minutes there where we had some turnovers,” Wade said of Toronto’s third-quarter run. “This is a great fast-breaking team, and if you give them opportunities, they’ll tear it up.”
In Minneapolis, James Harden had 34 points, 12 assists and six rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 126-108 for their ninth straight victory.