Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James dunks the basketball. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
CLEVELAND -- As LeBron James showered and dressed Sunday following the Cleveland Cavaliers' 107-91 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he sang and danced to New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain?"
It was a fitting conclusion to what has been a trying week in Cleveland.
James scored 25 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and became the first player to score 20,000 points in a Cavs uniform as the organization continued to emerge from the storm clouds of a turbulent week that James helped induce. And yet the storms may not be completely over.
Kevin Love left the game in the second quarter with back spasms and did not make the trip to Dallas for Monday's game against the Mavericks. Instead, he'll remain in Cleveland for an MRI on his back, which has now cost him the equivalent of three games in the last two weeks.
Coach Tyronn Lue acknowledged Love's back was bothering him when he arrived at the arena on Sunday.
"It's nothing to play with," James said of Love's back issues since James had back problems of his own a couple years ago. "It's a terrible feeling when your back is hurt. It just limits you more than anything. I know it's very frustrating for him because he puts in a lot of work. He's in the weight room all the time and he's doing his thing to keep his body in shape, then this is happening to him so it's very frustrating. Hopefully things get better for him soon."
Russell Westbrook had 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 24th triple-double of the season and first of his career against the Cavs, but he struggled most of the day. Westbrook shot 7 of 26 and committed four turnovers while being guarded most of the day by Iman Shumpert.
"Russell's seen every imaginable defense," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "He had some good looks, both in deep and in the free-throw line area. He had some 3s. It was a game where maybe shots didn't go down for him, but I didn't feel he was laboring to get shots off or he was having a difficult time getting to the rim. It was one of those games."
The Cavs led by as many as 19 in the third quarter, but the Thunder pulled within 82-75 on a 3-pointer from Cameron Payne while Westbrook rested during the fourth quarter. After Westbrook re-entered, the Thunder went scoreless on their next six possessions. A driving layup from Richard Jefferson pushed the lead back to double figures and Kyrie Irving's 3-pointer stretched the lead back to 98-82 with 3:57 left.
Irving scored 29 points and passed for 10 assists, Tristan Thompson grabbed 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Shumpert scored 16 points for the Cavs, who have won consecutive games after losing six of their previous eight. Thompson had one of his best defensive games of the season blocking four shots and picking off four steals. Now he is the last remaining big in the rotation since Love is down at least temporarily.
"This has been our mantra since we all came together: Next man up. We talk about it every year," Thompson said. "We hope Kevin gets well, takes care of his body, because you know we're going to need him for the long haul. So, whatever he has to do to get 100 percent, that's the most important."
Westbrook, who is averaging a triple-double, shot 1 of 6 from 3-point range and the Thunder shot 24 percent from deep (6 of 25). They missed their first 12 3s and shot just 37 percent overall on the day.
"I think we missed some (layups) around the basket that could have helped us out a little bit," Westbrook said. "Early in the game, it's key that we make those, especially on the road. You've got to be able to make easy baskets."
James, who is eighth on the NBA's all-time scoring list with nearly 28,000 career points, has nearly twice as many points as anyone else in a Cavs uniform. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is second on the team's scoring list with 10,616 points.
NOTES: Coach Billy Donovan said the Thunder will have to find new ways to create offense now that key reserve Enes Kanter could miss two months with a fractured forearm. "(Kanter)generated it though himself by low post scoring. He could make a jump shot. He created floor spacing sometimes where we could have him shoot 3s. As time goes on we'll find out more about our team and different things we need to do." ... Kanter departs ranked third on the team in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (6.7). ... Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was an assistant with the Celtics when Kyrie Irving was a rookie. Lue said he always got excited to cut up film with the Cavs because of Irving. "We couldn't wait to see what Kyrie did with the basketball and the moves we made, how impressed we were with the moves he made on the floor," Lue said.