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NBA Thursday night: Cavaliers visit Thunder without LeBron James

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We can still hate hard even with LeBron sidelined.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I was really looking forward to tonight's tilt between the Cavaliers and Thunder. As the likely top competition to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference come playoff time (sorry Raptors, Wizards and Hawks), I've been trying to watch as much Cavs as possible to get a feel for how they play. And in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook's return to the lineup has them poised to rocket up the standings.

Not to mention the individual matchups in this game were going to be awesome. LeBron vs. KD. Kyrie vs. Russ. Love vs. Ibaka. This was set to be a lot of fun for a lot of reasons.

But then LeBron had to go ruin it with a sore knee. I mean, come on, who plays it safe these days in the regular season anyway?! Why doesn't that softie play through this "soreness?" I DEMAND ANSWERS!

All joking aside, this should still be a pretty fun game. And at the very least, it's always enjoyable to hate on rivals. So hate away, Bulls fans, and root for the Cavs' eight-game winning streak to come to an end.

Cleveland has looked much better of late (obviously) since that 5-7 start, and they've been excellent on both sides of the ball. The Cavs have scored 113.8 points per 100 possessions and given up just 98.6 points per 100 possessions during the eight-game streak, per NBA.com.

The caveat here is the entire winning streak has come against the East. Sure, there were some impressive wins against the Raptors (x2) and Wizards, but the other five wins were against teams currently under .500. So let's see how they fare against the Western Conference, although it'll be hard to judge tonight without LeBron.

The second game is Rockets and Kings, which would be much better if the teams were healthy. Alas, Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins are still out, and Houston is on the second night of a back-to-back after running into the Warriors machine last night.