George scores 36, Thunder blast LeBron, Cavs 148-124
CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James couldn’t get to 30,000 career points and he and his Cleveland teammates couldn’t stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony as the Oklahoma City Thunder thumped the Cavaliers 148-124 on Saturday for their fourth straight win.
Oklahoma City tied the record for the most points scored against Cleveland in a regulation game. Philadelphia scored 148 back in 1972.
George scored 36, Westbrook had 23 and 20 assists and Anthony scored a season-high 29 as the Thunder embarrassed the Eastern Conference champions, whose defensive issues aren’t improving. Cleveland has lost 10 of 14.
James finished with 18 points and is seven shy of becoming the seventh player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point plateau. His next chance is Tuesday when the Cavs visit San Antonio.
James entered the fourth within reach of 30,000. But after he missed two shots, James was replaced with 6:37 remaining and the Cavs trailing 128-101. The 33-year-old wanted to make history in front of his home fans and family, but it wasn’t to be and he dejectedly took a seat on the bench as the Thunder finished off the rout.
James will eventually get to 30,000 and join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points), Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643), Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Dirk Nowitzki (30,808) on the select list.
The Thunder wanted no part of seeing that ceremony and tore up the Cavaliers, whose rollercoaster season is on a steady, accelerating descent.
Oklahoma City center Steven Adams scored 25 on 12 of 13 shooting and the Thunder’s starters combined for 121 points.
Cavaliers center Kevin Love only played three minutes because he was sick.
The Thunder had their way with Cleveland in the first half. They scored 76 — the most given up in any half by the Cavs this season — and took the air out of the Quicken Loans Arena crowd. Before the second half began, the arena’s in-game emcee told the fans, “The first half is over. Forget about it.”
That was impossible as the Thunder extended its lead to 24 when Anthony drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key, sapping whatever energy Clevelanders had left.
The Cavs made one last push with James making a layup to cut the Thunder’s lead to 12. But Oklahoma City didn’t let up and eventually pushed the lead to 31.
Thunder: G Andre Roberson played his second game after missing eight with left patellar tendinitis. He had a forgettable six-second span, missing four straight free throws and committing a foul. … Coach Billy Donovan first watched James play as a high school sophomore, when he stood out more than others. “In seeing him at that age you see a lot of times young kids that are sophomores with his ability — maybe not all of his ability — but you see talented players,” Donovan said. “They never get better. A lot of times it’s difficult to get better because there’s such a microscope. The thing that’s amazing to me is he’s had a lot of attention on him and a very, very young age and he always got better.”
Cavaliers: With the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaching, there is growing speculation that Cleveland will make a deal — or two — to improve the league’s oldest roster. Coach Tyronn Lue doesn’t necessarily believe change is essential. “I like the group that we have,” he said. “We just haven’t been healthy the whole year. I’m just focused on coaching the guys that we have.”
Thunder: Host Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Cavaliers: At San Antonio on Tuesday.
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