CLEVELAND – Kevin Durant’s eyes had to get wide when Cleveland Cavaliers forward Alonzo Gee picked up his second personal foul just two minutes into Thursday’s game.
Guard Matthew Dellavedova, all 6-foot-4 of him, came jogging out on the court to defend the versatile forward and MVP candidate.
The 6-foot-9 Durant exploded for a game-high 35 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 102-95 victory over the Cavaliers before 18,246 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“He didn’t get under my skin,” Durant said of the hard-nosed Dellavedova. “He plays hard. You can respect a player like that, but I didn’t pay him any attention.”
Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters matched his season high with 30 points.
The Cavs used a late 21-2 run, including 16 unanswered points, to pull within five, 97-92, with 1:12 to play.
However, the Cavaliers dropped 6 1/2 games behind No. 8 Atlanta for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavs are so short-handed now — they had only nine players available, one being D-League call-up Shane Edwards – that they have difficulty hanging with the upper-echelon teams like the Thunder.
“The injury bug has never been an excuse,” Cavs guard Jarrett Jack said.
The Cavs’ late surge made the game close, but they could not put themselves in position to win the game.
“Guys were scrambling, making plays and hustling,” Jack said.
Oklahoma City (50-18) has now strung together five consecutive 50-win seasons, a feat matched only by San Antonio.
Durant, the league’s leading scorer at 31.9 points per game, has scored 25 points or more in 33 consecutive games. That’s the longest streak in the NBA since Michael Jordan’s 40-game streak in 1986-87.
Durant converted 12 of 21 field goals, including 3-for-8 from behind the arc.
“I don’t care if I miss,” he said. “Sometimes I have to get my mind ready for a tough shooting night, but I always stay aggressive.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Durant has seen every defense known to man.
“I thought they did a good job of really bodying him up early in the game,” he said. “It took him a few minutes to adjust to that. He does it every night. His consistency is remarkable.”
Power forward Serge Ibaka added a double-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Thunder.
Center Spencer Hawes had 20 points for the Cavs.
Dellavedova recorded his first career double-double with 11 points, a career-high 10 assists and four rebounds.
Cavs coach Mike Brown was impressed with the job Dellavedova did on the taller Durant.
“We put him on Kevin Durant and he fought his butt off,” Brown said. “One thing he’s going to do is fight. He’s going to make you work for your points.
“You go to double team him, (Durant) sees right over the defense. (He’s) such a gifted and willing passer. I don’t think there was one time he didn’t make the right pass.”
Dellavedova said he tried to deny Durant the ball.
“At the start, I think he struggled catching it a couple times, but then he starting getting catches and there’s no way you can guard a guy like that one-on-one,” he said. “So you’ve just got to try to force him where the help is.”
The Thunder bullied the Cavs on the boards, 53-36.
NOTES: The Cavaliers had nine players available for Thursday’s game, including F Shane Edwards, an NBA Development League call-up. F Luol Deng (left ankle sprain), G/F C.J. Miles (left ankle sprain) and G/F Sergey Karasev (left patellar tendinitis) were held out of the game. They were added to the injury list that already included G Kyrie Irving (strained biceps tendon), F Anthony Bennett (strained patellar tendon) and G Carrick Felix (left patellar stress fracture). … There were rumors the Cavs might sign G Seth Curry to a 10-day contract. … The Thunder are playing without three starters in G Thabo Sefolosha (left calf strain), C Kendrick Perkins (left groin strain) and G Russell Westbrook (right knee). Oklahoma City started Reggie Jackson and Andre Roberson in the backcourt.
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