Cavaliers lose home opener to Thunder 108-105 
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - On Friday night with heavy hearts the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-0) opened the home portion of the NBA schedule against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder (1-0). There were heavy hearts because on Thursday the Cavaliers lost an original member of the team when Bobby “Bingo” Smith passed away at age 77. After the Cavs paid tribute to Smith during the first timeout of the game, Cleveland with Smith’s number 7 hanging from the rafters went on to lose a heartbreaker 108-105.

Bingo Smith was drafted by the Cavaliers in 1970 as part of the NBA expansion draft and remained with the Cavaliers until 1979 becoming one of the team’s most iconic players. His shot from 25 feet with just seconds left on the clock in game 2 in the Miracle of Richfield series with the Washington Bullets cemented his place in Cleveland sports history. Smith and his teammates on those Cavaliers teams were responsible for making thousands of Northeast Ohio children into basketball fans from Sandusky to Wickliffe to Ashtabula. He often visited school and held basketball camps for kids. The picture below is from a camp that Smith held at Wickliffe High School for 5th and 6th students.

The Thunder shot out to a 7-0 lead with 9:00 left in the first quarter when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a jumper. The Cavs responded with their first points of the contest with 8:17 left in the first when Isaac Okoro hit a three to pull the Cavs to within 7-3. After a couple free throws by Okoro the Cavs stole the ball on the next Thunder possession and Okoro tied the game with a fast-break finger roll at 7-7 with 7:15 left in the first quarter. The Thunder then went on a 7-2 scoring spurt to take a 14-9 lead with 5:58 left on a three pointer by Rookie Center Chet Holmgren. Okoro scored the Cavs first nine points. Someone other than Okoro scored for the Cavs finally and Donovan Mitchell tied the game 17-17 on a layup with 4:25 left on the first quarter clock. The Cavs then took their first lead of the nigh 19-17 when Mitchell hit two free throws after being fouled by Luguentz Dort with 3:58 remining in the opening quarter. The Thunder went on another spurt and took a 25-19 lead with 2:25 left in the quarter on two free throws by Dort after he was fouled by Ty Jerome. The Cavs responded with six of the next eight points and pulled to within two points with :51.2 left in the first when Mobley dropped in a layup. The First quarter ended with the Thunder leading 31-26. Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 12 in the first 12 minutes. Okoro led the Cavs with nine points. The Cavs were 1 for 9 from behind the three-point line, meanwhile the Thunder was 3 of 4. The Cavs shot 41% from the field and the Thunder shot 48%. Oklahoma City also outrebounded the Cavs 13-11 in the opening quarter.

The second quarter opened with a turnover by the Thunder, but the Cavs could not convert when Mobley looked like he slammed home a dunk but was called for basket interference. It looked like Holmgren could have been called for a foul on the play but was not. The Thunder then scored the next five points to take a 36-26 lead with 10:36 left in the second when Isaiah Joe hit a three pointer. Through the first five minutes of the second quarter the Cavs were ice cold shooting from the field and particularly from three where they were shooting a miserable 1 for 15 and the Thunder were taking advantage outscoring the Cavs in the quarter 10-2 to take a 41-28 lead. The Cavs mercifully took a timeout before the sellout crowd left RMFH crying. The Cavs looked like a team that didn’t have much practice together as they continued to turn the ball over, a total of six times in the first half to this point with 3:47 remaining and it showed on the scoreboard as the Thunder led 48-36 with 2:43 remaining in the first half. Though the Cavs played a terrible first half some of the calls made by official Natalie Sago could be called at the least “suspect”. The Cavs were having none of it as Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff and Mitchell both had words with Sago before they headed to the locker room for the halftime break with the Cavs trailing 52-42.

Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 18 first half points. Mitchell led the Cavs with 17. Okoro was the only other Cav in double figures in the first half and he had 10. The Cavs shot a disgusting 25% (6 of 24) in the second quarter and 33% (15 of 46) in the first half while the Thunder shot 44% (20 of 46) in the first 24 minutes. Oklahoma City outplayed the Cavs in every aspect of the game in the first half, outrebounding (28-25), Free throws (87% to 75%). The only thing the Cavs managed to do better than the Thunder was take care of the ball as they turned it over seven times and the Thunder turned it over eight.

Early in the third quarter Sago was at it again as Okoro was elbowed in the face and laid on the floor motionless for a good minute and Sago called a personal foul on him. Holmgren made one of two free throws to give the Thunder a 53-42 lead with 11:12 left in the third quarter. After the elbow that knocked Okoro out of the game the Cavs outscored the Thunder 18-9 over the next 4:43 pulling to within two points at 62-60 with 6;39 left when Mitchell hit a three. The Cavs then tied the game 62-62 with 6:07 left in the third and tied the game 64-64 on consecutive layups by Mitchell, he now had 27 points with 5:31 left in the quarter. The Thunder regained the lead just :27 later when Vasilije Micic hit a three and it was 67-64. The Cavs finally regained the lead with 4:07 left when LeVert drained a three and the Cavs were on top 69-67. The Cavs didn’t have the lead for long as Gilgeous-Alexander converted the Cavs turnover into fastbreak points giving Oklahoma City a 71-69 lead with 3:14 remaining in the third. With :56.5 left in the third quarter Okoro returned to the Cavs lineup. As the third quarter expired the Cavs had cut the Oklahoma City lead to 79-75, trimming six points off the Thunder’s halftime advantage. Mitchell led all scorers with 29. Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 27. The Cavs outrebounded the Thunder 11-8 in the quarter. The Cavs shot much better in the third 12 of 21 from the field and 5 of 13 from behind the three-point line.

The Cavs tied the game at 81-81 on a three by Max Strus with just :54 off the fourth quarter clock and took an 83-81 lead with 10:29 left when Mobley slammed the ball home. After Holmgren hit a three to put the Thunder on top 84-83 the Cavs tied the game when Mobley hit one two free throws after Holgren committed his third foul. After a couple possessions by both teams produced nothing, Mitchell was fouled and drained both free throws to give the Cavs an 86-84 lead with 9:18 left in regulation. With the Cavs leading 88-86 Cavs head coach Bickerstaff was charged with a technical foul, Joe missed the attempt for the Thunder. Just less than a minute later Strus was assessed a technical by guess who. Yes, Sago. Dort hit the free throw for the Thunder to pull them to within one point at 88-87 with 7:16 left in the game. Apparently, Sago was watching a different game than the 19,432 in attendance and they let her know it on several occasions. I guess it’s never too early for the home crowd to chant M-V-P as Mitchell came to the foul line after hitting a layup and making the and one to give the Cavs a 91-87 lead. After Gilgeous-Alexander hit a three with 5:54 left to pull the Thunder to within one at 91-90 and Strus missed a jumper the Thunder turned the ball over and on a fastbreak Mitchell hit Dean Wade in the paint and Wade slammed it home to extend the Cavs lead to 93-90 with 5:20 left on the clock. The Cavs built the lead to six when LeVert drained a three on a nice pass from Mobley to give the Cavs a six-point advantage at 96-90 with 4:32 left. With 2:37 left on the clock Mitchell drained a jumper and gave the Cavs an improbable 100-90 lead considering how team shot most of the game. Thunder was not silenced and after an overturned foul call on Holmgren the Thunder moved to within three points at 102-99 when Jalen Williams hit a three pointer from 26 feet with 1:16 remaining. Holmgren then tied the game 102-102 with 1:03 left. The Cavs failed on their next offensive possession when Mitchell turned the ball over on a bad pass and the Thunder took advantage when Dort hit a floater giving OKC a 104-102 lead with :28 left in regulation. After Mitchell shot an air ball Holmgren pulled down the rebound and was fouled by Mobley. After the Thunder inbounded the ball Williams hit both free throws to give the Thunder a 106-102 lead. The Cavs quickly took the ball down the court to drain a three by Mitchell and cut the lead to 106-105 with just :06.4 on the game clock. The Cavs fouled Gilgeous-Alexander after the Thunder inbounded the ball. He drained both free throws to give OKC a 108-105 lead. The Cavs inbounded the ball and Mitchell turned the ball over, but even more concerning that the loss was that Mitchell appeared to come up lame after the play.

Mitchell led all scorers with 43 in a losing effort. Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 34 and Dort poured in 25 in the win. The story of the game was three point baskets as the Thunder shot 26, 19 less than the Cavaliers but drained 13 one more than the Cavs who managed to total only 12 for a miserable 26%.

The Cavs playing a back-to-back will be at home again on Saturday night when they take on the Indiana Pacers (1-0) in a Central Division matchup at 7:30 pm. Last season the Cavs took 3 of 4 from the Pacers. The only loss in the series for the Cavs last season was in Indianapolis on December 29, 135-126. The Pacers have the lead in the all-time series 101-106, with the Cavs having the advantage in Cleveland 65-41. Cavs all-time records vs the Pacers are held by LeBron James 47 points on February 10, 2009, rebounds 19 held by Cliff Robinson (12/03/82) and Kevin Love (11/08/15). Most assists is Geoff Huston on February 3, 1982, with 20.. 
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​POSTED 10/27/2023 22:40
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Cavaliers Evan Mobley shoots a free throw.                             Photo by Tim Shirer
                                                Photo by Pat Granito.