Westbrook to miss Thunder’s visit to Cavaliers
The Oklahoma City Thunder have found their footing following a slow start by going on a five-game winning streak.
Their next chance to keep the streak alive will be with star guard Russell Westbrook in street clothes.
A sprained left ankle will prevent Westbrook from suiting up Wednesday night when Oklahoma City visits the league-worst Cleveland Cavaliers.
Westbrook is definitely out Wednesday though he is traveling with the Thunder. He will be re-evaluated Thursday before a home game with the Houston Rockets but since it is on the second night of a back-to-back set, it appears likely the Thunder will proceed with caution and keep Westbrook out until Saturday or sometime next week.
With 4:25 left in the third quarter and Oklahoma City holding a seven-point lead in Monday’s 122-116 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, Westbrook came down hard on the ankle while going for a rebound against New Orleans center Anthony Davis.
The x-rays were negative and subsequent evaluation showed it was only a sprain.
“Russ has a pretty high pain tolerance, so I knew it was something that was serious,” Oklahoma City forward Paul George told reporters. “I was just hoping it wasn’t his knee. I thought I saw him holding his knee. I think we can all say it’s unfortunate, we can all say as bad as it was, we’re happy it wasn’t the knee and that it was just an ankle sprain.”
Westbrook will be missing his third game of the season. He also sat out the first two games of the Thunder’s season-opening four-game losing streak while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery in September.
Dennis Schroder started the first two games Westbrook missed and is expected to do so again. He scored 22 points on Monday and is averaging 17.2 points during the five-game win streak.
After Westbrook went down, Schroder scored 11 points in the fourth quarter while George led the Thunder with 22 points and Steven Adams added 18.
“When he went out, I thought our guys competed and played extremely hard,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said.
“I think it motivated us even more. When he goes down, everybody was shocked a little bit for a second, but coach (Donovan) pushed us and we came out strong,” Schröder said. “Whoever steps on the court is ready.”
During their winning streak, the Thunder are averaging 122.4 points while shooting 49.8 percent. They also are getting 14.4 steals per game while forcing 21 turnovers and allowing 110.8 points.
Cleveland enters the game at 1-9 and 1-3 since Larry Drew replaced Tyronn Lue as coach on Oct. 28. Six of those losses are by double-digits but Cleveland returns home after taking a 102-100 loss to Orlando on Monday.
The Cavaliers blew a five-point deficit in the final 24 seconds and took their latest loss when Evan Fournier hit a 22-foot jumper at the buzzer.
“We put ourselves in a great situation and we just did not execute down the stretch,” Drew said after Cedi Osman committed a costly turnover with 20 seconds left.
Cleveland played its most competitive game by taking its first lead into the fourth quarter and did so after Drew reached an agreement to remain the head coach for the rest of the season. Drew said Monday there was no discussion about retaining the job beyond this season.
“We’ll be in that situation again,” Drew said. “We put ourselves in that position game after game, we’ll win some games.”
Monday’s loss gave the Cavs their worst 10-game start since the 1984-85 season.
The Cavaliers will use their fourth starting lineup of the season Wednesday since forward Sam Dekker is out two-to-four weeks with a sprained left ankle. Dekker started the last five games but was injured early in the third quarter Monday.
The teams split both meetings last season with the road team winning each time. George scored 36 points in Oklahoma City’s 148-124 win in Cleveland on Jan. 20 and Cleveland recorded a 120-112 win at Oklahoma City on Feb. 13.