OKLAHOMA CITY • Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said his Big Three wanted to play.
Facing the leading candidate for National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving talked Lue into letting them take the court instead of resting on Thursday. That move only seemed to pick up Russell Westbrook's intensity to another level.
But it was the play of the supporting cast that enabled the Oklahoma City Thunder to knock off the champions 118-109 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Still, Lue did not hesitate to defend his decision to play his three top players.
"It was good to go through something tough," he said. "It was a tough game for us. Four games in six nights, it was just good to fight through and not give in. Guys came out and played. Like how we competed. They played better than us, they won tonight."
Westbrook collected his 26th triple-double of the season to lead the Thunder (31-23). He had a game-high 29 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds.
Russell Westbrook (26) is now behind only Oscar Robertson (41) and Wilt Chamberlain (31) in the list for the most triple-doubles in a season.
He matched the third-highest total for triple-doubles in a season. Oscar Robertson collected 26 in 1960-61 and 1963-64. Only Robertson, with 41 in 1961-62, and Wilt Chamberlain, with 31 in 1967-68, have posted more in a campaign.
Victor Oladipo added 23 points while Steven Adams had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder.
As soon as the game was over, the Thunder had to turn their attention to today's (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) clash with former Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. The league-leading Warriors (44-8) won both games at Oracle Arena when the Thunder visited in November and last month.
"It's going to be a fun game," Westbrook said ahead of the teams' third meeting this season but the first at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"It's an exciting game that a lot of people have been waiting for."
Irving paced the Cavaliers (36-16) with 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting. James scored 18 points to go along with seven assists, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
After the game, James gave a 34-second statement that included him yelling, "Charles Oakley for president".
"It was heck of a road trip for us," he said. "We went 3-1. We would have love to been 4-0. Coming off a back to back, they gave us everything they had. We go home extremely proud of what we did on this road trip."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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