LeBron James told reporters the Cleveland Cavaliers (27-18) resided in "Strugglesville" following Thursday's narrow win over the Orlando Magic, but it looked like they were in a world of hurt Saturday afternoon.
With the chance to nab consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 17, the Cavaliers got steamrolled 148-124 by the Oklahoma City Thunder at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Thunder (26-20) have now ripped off four straight victories and are 2.5 games back of the Minnesota Timberwolves for the top spot in the Northwest Division thanks to a sensational showing from their Big Three.
Paul George was at the forefront of the ferocious charge and stepped up in a big perimeter showdown versus James.
In three quarters—he sat for the entirety of the fourth—George scorched the nets for 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-11 from three.
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He also did a stellar job clamping down on James and helped limit him to 18 points. That was especially big since LeBron entered the day needing 25 points to become the seventh player in league history to hit 30,000 for his career.
Westbrook, meanwhile, flirted with his league-leading 15th triple-double and finished with 23 points, a season-high 20 assists and nine rebounds as he became the first player in the NBA to register 20 points and 20 dimes in a game this season.
Russell Westbrook is 17 rebounds shy of averaging a triple-double this season. 24.8 PPG 9.6 RPG 10.1 APG https://t.co/lfCGjTD44h2018-1-20 23:03:15
He also shot 9-of-17 from the field, including a third-quarter triple that came complete with a high-step:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Russ was feeling it 😂 https://t.co/LiAYGHT7yQ2018-1-20 23:09:39
Anthony added 29 points, while Steven Adams poured in 25 and grabbed 10 rebounds as he repeatedly pounded Cleveland in the paint on an afternoon when Oklahoma City's starters combined for a whopping 121 points.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
PG, Russ and Melo combined for 88 points in the Thunder's 148(!)-124 rout over the Cavs 🔥 https://t.co/b9z010ESRA2018-1-20 23:04:18
With the Thunder firing on all cylinders, the attention naturally shifted to the porous state of Cleveland's 28th-ranked defense (109.2 points per 100 possessions), per NBA.com:
Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA
The Cavaliers defense is abysmal. Many people said it was too soon to worry in October and November. But now their problems are even worse; old and slow won't get better. It's time to start worrying even harder.2018-1-20 21:54:28
Chris Mannix @ChrisMannixYS
Cavs have proven this season that they can score on everyone, and can’t stop anyone. Don’t know how this is fixable without a major trade.2018-1-20 22:53:12
All told, the 148 points the Cavaliers surrendered were tied for the most in franchise history, according to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin.
"We took another step backward," head coach Tyronn Lue said, according to the Associated Press' Tom Withers.
Arguably the only bright spot for the Cavaliers was Isaiah Thomas—who scored a season-high 24 points (8-of-14 shooting, 4-of-8 from three) as he looked sharp spotting up for jumpers and slicing through the Thunder's defense:
Cleveland Cavaliers @cavs
24 points, 4 dimes. @IsaiahThomas is on a mission. #CavsThunder https://t.co/Wor8lDhxGZ2018-1-20 22:26:42
However, the Cavaliers can't be in the mood to think about silver linings.
Their defense has been bordering on brutal for weeks, and it doesn't appear a quick fix is possible at this point.
The Cavaliers will return to the floor Tuesday for a tough tilt against the San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder will also be back in action Tuesday when they attempt to keep their winning streak alive versus the Brooklyn Nets.