The Oklahoma City Thunder have generally dominated the opening three quarters during a lengthy home winning streak, but they needed Kevin Durant to spearhead a major comeback their last time out to keep it going.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are finding out they have a pretty capable closer as well.
Durant and the Thunder look to add to the Western Conference's best record with a 15th straight home win Friday night against the Cavaliers, who are getting accustomed to Kyrie Irving taking over down the stretch.
Oklahoma City (31-8) is threatening to run away with the West's top seed, and that's bad news for the rest of the conference considering the Thunder are an NBA-best 17-1 at home. Their winning streak at Chesapeake Energy Arena reached 14 with Wednesday's 115-104 victory over Phoenix.
That was Oklahoma City's 10th win during the streak by double digits, but it hardly came easy after having built an average lead of 13.4 points through three quarters during the first 13 victories. The Thunder were down 16 with four minutes left in the third Wednesday before outscoring the Suns 47-20.
"We never think (we're out of a game), especially at home," said Durant, who scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth. "I always think that we can come back."
The trio scored 29 of the Thunder's 31 points in the fourth, adding to a reputation of late heroics. Durant leads the league with 7.7 points per game in the final 12 minutes, while Westbrook (5.6) and Harden (5.0) make Oklahoma City the only team with three players averaging at least 5.0 points in the fourth.
Cleveland (14-23) had none last season, but Irving (6.6 in the fourth) has quickly developed into a go-to scorer late. The No. 1 overall pick had 10 of his 18 points in the final 2:36 on Wednesday in Denver, including the layup with four seconds left that lifted the Cavaliers to a 100-99 win and snapped a six-game slide.
"Kyrie down the stretch, it speaks for itself," said Antawn Jamison, who had a game-high 33 points. "He single-handedly won the game for us."
Irving, who at 48.3 percent from the field is threatening to be the first rookie guard to crack 48 percent since Wesley Person (48.4) in 1994-95, ranks eighth in the league in fourth-quarter points.
Over the past six weeks, however, he's been the best. Irving has averaged 8.9 points in the final 12 minutes since Jan. 27, 0.3 ahead of Durant. Three of Cleveland's seven wins in that stretch have come when Irving has turned a deficit into a lead in the final four seconds.
"He's always under control," Jamison said. "He does a great job of setting opponents up and he finishes around the rim better then anyone I've played with or against. That's just an added bonus to his game, to get this type of experiences, to have so many clutch game-winning shots, shots that make a difference."
The odds are certainly stacked against Irving and the Cavaliers stopping the Thunder's longest run at home since the franchise won 17 straight in Seattle in 1994-95. Cleveland hasn't won consecutive road games since a three-game run in November 2010.
Oklahoma City won last season's meetings by an average of 24.5 points, both times holding the Cavaliers to 33.8 percent shooting. Harden totaled 35 points in 47 minutes off the bench.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Kevin Durant
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Oklahoma City