Cavaliers (2-4) at Thunder (4-2) – Game #7

OPENING TIP

Games like these are almost a guaranteed loss. The Cavaliers won at Oklahoma City last season, the Thunder are defending Western Conference champions, and they already lost to an East team (Atlanta) at home this year.

So, what do the Cavs have to play for?

Well, you still have to approach each game it’s winnable. And with the young Cavs, it probably is. At least, it is if Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao stay healthy, and Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson keep doing their thing defensively.

But more than that, this game is another step in the growing process — as the Cavs face the team that every small-market franchise wants to become. The Thunder are mostly young, fun, highly talented and operate as a fairly cohesive unit.

They built mostly through the draft, using a combination of being lucky and good on their way to landing the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden (since traded) and Jeff Green (traded before that).

The Cavs are in the early stages of what they hope will be a similar process of using the draft and trades (as opposed to free agency) to land players who not only want to succeed in a smaller market, but be willing to stay through the beginning rough stages.

That’s not an easy thing to do. But the Thunder give hope to everyone who’s looked at as irrelevant. All you need to do is build the right way and strike gold in the draft.

On Sunday, the Cavs get a close-up look at the results.

VENUE

Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.

TIP-OFF

7 p.m. EST

TELEVISION

FOX Sports Ohio HD (Cavaliers Live pre-game show begins at 68:30 p.m.)

RADIO

Cleveland – WTAM-1100 AM (broadcast begins at 10 p.m.)

PROBABLE STARTERS

Cavs

C – Anderson Varejao; PF – Tristan Thompson; SF – Alonzo Gee; SG – Dion Waiters; PG – Kyrie Irving. Coach: Byron Scott.

Thunder

C – Kendrick Perkins; PF – Serge Ibaka; SF – Kevin Durant; SG – Thabo Sefolosha; PG – Russell Westbrook. Coach: Scott Brooks.

NOTABLE

Backup center Tyler Zeller (fractured cheekbone) remains out for the Cavs. … The Thunder spent time studying game film of the Cavs on Saturday, and came away impressed with the Cavs’ pick-and-roll game. … “It kind of had me scared today in the film room the way the coaches were,” Perkins told the Oklahoman. “I thought we were playing the damn Dream Team.” … New Thunder acquisition Kevin Martin, a product of Zansville (Ohio) High, is averaging 18 ppg off the bench. … The Cavs trail the all-time series, 58-41, dating back to when the Thunder were the Seattle SuperSonics. … This is the fifth of a six-game road trip for the Cavs. It concludes Tuesday in Brooklyn.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO