LeBron James Dominant as Cavaliers Beat Russell Westbrook, Thunder

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James hangs from the basket after dunking in front of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Alex Abrines during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The new-look Cleveland Cavaliers continued their winning ways by knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-112 at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Tuesday.

LeBron James led the way with a game-high 37 points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists, and JR Smith kept up his hot shooting. After making three of his four three-point attempts in Sunday's 121-99 win over the Boston Celtics, Smith went 6-of-9 from beyond the arc against the Thunder.

Cleveland's four-game winning streak is its longest since December.

Four of Oklahoma City's five starters scored 20 points—Paul George led the way with 25—but the team struggled to find a consistent rhythm and finished 11-of-35 from three-point range.

Coming off the emotional high of the 22-point victory over the Celtics, the Cavaliers showed no signs of fatigue as they made the journey to Oklahoma for a primetime matchup against one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

While James continued to play at an MVP level, Smith's showing against the Thunder extended his hot streak. The 32-year-old has made at least 50 percent of his three-point attempts in four of his last five games.

Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue addressed Smith's import Monday, via ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin:

"People saying, 'Quit on JR, give up on JR,' it's not right. And he gives us effort and energy every night. Sometimes your shot is going to come and go. That's just part of the game. For the most part, his effort is there every night. That's why I wanted to stick with JR and I don't want to lose JR. Make sure [to] keep him in good spirits, going in the right direction. He's big for us. When he's making shots, when he's being aggressive, our team is a whole different team."

When Cleveland's supporting cast is playing up to its standards, everything James does comes so much easier. Witness this five-minute stretch in the third quarter:

In case anyone forgot about James' abilities during Cleveland's pre-trade deadline lull, ESPN's Jorge Sedano reminded them:

Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports put it another way for the more technologically savvy audience:

Just as important to the Cavs' turnaround has been their defensive effort, especially on the perimeter. They have held their last three opponents to 31.6 percent shooting from three-point range.

UFC heavyweight champion—and noted Cleveland sports fan—Stipe Miocic had a message for the rest of the NBA about these new Cavs:

The bench had an excellent game in Cleveland's win. Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. combined for 41 points. Nance grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.

James said after the game he's unhappy the All-Star break has arrived for the Cavs:

As Cleveland continues to trend upward, the Thunder are sliding. They have lost six of their last eight games, including twice to the 23-32 Los Angeles Lakers.

Oklahoma City's Achilles' heel has been three-point shooting, as it ranks 26th in the league (34.9 percent).

There were areas in which the Thunder played well Tuesday. Steven Adams was unstoppable in the paint, with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook had 24 and 21 points and seven boards apiece, and Westbrook added 12 assists.

The All-Star break will give OKC an opportunity to regroup and figure out what hasn't been working. The Thunder have one more game before then: a road tilt with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

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