The NBA’s two best players are scheduled to face off on Thursday night, but an injury could prevent LeBron James and Kevin Durant from meeting for the first time in the 2014-2015 season. Knee soreness has made the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star a game-time decision in the team’s contest with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James hasn’t missed any time this season, starting in each of Cleveland’s 20 games. However, the team announced that the four-time MVP missed the morning shootaround, in order to receive treatment for his ailment.
"It's another opportunity for somebody to step up," Kevin Love told reporters about his teammate’s injury. "We know what we lose in LeBron, and this will be a great opportunity to see ourselves against one of the best Western Conference teams, despite their record. But it's just another opportunity, as I mentioned, for other guys to step up if he's out. If not, we'll go at full strength."
The onus would fall on both Love and Kyrie Irving, who continue to play better, as the teammates get more familiar with each other. Love has slightly increased his field goal percentage and his scoring average from November to December, and he’s grabbing three more rebounds per game. Irving has increased his field goal percentage from 47.2 to 50.7, and he’s dishing out one more assist per contest.
If James does miss Thursday’s game, it comes at a time when the team is playing its best basketball of the year. After starting off slowly and winning just five of their first 12 games, the Cavaliers have won eight in a row, giving them the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Oklahoma City knows about injuries to their top players all too well. An offseason foot fracture forced Durant to miss the first 17 games of the season, and a hand injury kept point guard Russell Westbrook off the court for two-thirds of the Thunder’s games. Having to play 14 games without their two best players, Oklahoma City’s 8-13 record has them three games out of the playoffs.
The team has immediately responded with Durant back in the lineup, riding a three-game winning streak into Thursday night’s game, following a loss in the MVP’s season debut. Oklahoma City’s matchup with Cleveland will be the first real test for the team, as it hopes to recover from a slow start to the year. In the four games since Durant has returned, the Thunder haven’t played a team with a winning record.
Oklahoma City is a 4.5-point favorite at Las Vegas casinos. Despite their struggles, they have a .500 record at home.
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Online Stream: TNT Overtime
Point Spread: Thunder by 4.5 points
Over/Under: 202 points