Thunder, Cavaliers seek to end losing streaks

NBA

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said he isn’t overly concerned after his worst game of the season.

Gilgeous-Alexander, in his second game back from a left-knee sprain that kept him out of four consecutive games, went 3-for-12 shooting from the floor, including 1-for-7 from inside the 3-point line, with four turnovers in the Thunder’s 98-85 loss Friday at Milwaukee.

“Just a bad night,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I missed a couple easy ones, missed a bunch of free throws, shots I usually make.

“I’m not really too worried. Just one of them nights and I’ll be better for next game.”

The next game comes Sunday against the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said it would take some time for Gilgeous-Alexander to get back into form.

“He’s still getting his legs back underneath him, I think, and his rhythm back,” Daigneault said, adding that Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t “look like himself” offensively against the Bucks.

Both teams enter Sunday’s game needing positive momentum.

The Thunder have lost three consecutive games and six of their past seven. The Cavaliers have lost nine in a row after falling to Denver 120-103 on Friday.

Cleveland has lost by an average of more than 21 points per game during the losing streak, with only one game decided by less than 17.

In the loss to Denver, the Cavaliers had one of their better offensive games recently, shooting 47 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from behind the 3-point line and recording 30 assists on 39 made field goals. They also forced 15 turnovers.

“I think we improved, we competed,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We improved on what we worked on these past four days.”

Cleveland figures to use Isaac Okoro plenty on Gilgeous-Alexander.

The rookie guard has often been matched up defensively with the other team’s top guard.

“It’s basically throwing him to the wolves,” Bickerstaff told Cleveland.com. “We have challenged him to guard the best players on the planet, and you don’t learn that by not being able to do it, right?

“Now, the expectation from this point forward in his career is that he’s going to guard the other team’s best perimeter player most nights.”

That was the plan from right after the Cavaliers picked Okoro No. 5 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Cleveland believes the experience will pay off in the long run.

“We genuinely believe that Isaac is going to be an elite defender in this league for a long time,” Bickerstaff told the site. “But you don’t get there without those experiences. We’ll see the long-term effects of some of this stuff, but right now it doesn’t faze him.”

Taurean Prince has missed Cleveland’s past two games with a sprained left ankle and is expected to be sidelined against the Thunder.

–Field Level Media

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