After months of waiting, it’s finally here. The NBA Finals rematch, the first of two matchups between the two league’s two best teams, the league’s three best players and a ton of other the NBA’s biggest stars. It’s the Cavs vs. the Warriors on Christmas in #TheLand.
Is there any basketball game we’ve been waiting longer for than this?
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
When: Dec. 25 at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland. Oho
Enemy Blog: Golden State of Mind
Music: Cleveland is the Reason - Kid Cudi
Keys to the game
- In case you forgot, the last time these two teams played was when the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, Kyrie Irving his this shot over Steph Curry, LeBron James pulled off ‘The Block’ and Kevin Love locked up Steph Curry.
- This year, the Warriors are really, really good and oh ya, they added that Kevin Durant guy. Currently, they are second in both defensive and offensive rating. Durant is becoming a monster on both ends, as he’s just operating more efficiently and has more defensive freedom than he did with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- How the Cavs alter their strategy to deal with Durant is maybe the most interesting strategic thing about this game. LeBron will have to defend him for the most part - especially when the starters are against each other and late - but will the Cavs match his minutes with LeBron? My guess would be that they won’t now i, but would in the Finals matchup we’d all expect to see.
- A guess at how the Cavs will defend the Warriors starters: Irving on Curry, DeAndre Liggins on Klay Thompson, LeBron on Durant, Tristan Thompson on Draymond Green and Love on Zaza Pachulia. How the Warriors match the Cavs should be interesting, especially since Green will probably defend Love when the starters are against each other. They could, though, probably have Green defend LeBron and have Durant take on Love for stretches.
- Love role in this game also figures to be interesting and telling to a degree. How good of a season he’s having/the Cavs’ title win probably will insulate him from the ‘the Cavs need to trade him!’ hot takes that have popped up the last two years. But Tyronn Lue will probably have to deploy him in unique ways. He’ll be really hard to play against smaller lineups (aka the upgraded ‘Death Lineup’), but extremely valuable against Golden State’s centers. The best way to get him touches might be to go small with him at center whenever Pachulia or JaVale McGee are in the game. If the Cavs do that, they can probably avoid having Green guarding him 1 vs. 1 in the post. Love also can probably hang with Andre Iguodala when the Warriors go small, especially since none their best pick and roll options involve their sixth man.
- Per baketball-reference.com, the Warriors’ 2016-17 ‘Death Lineup’ has played 123 minutes together - making it their second most used lineup - and is plus 25.5 points per 100 possession. That’s really good, but don’t expect to see a ton of it. On the Locked on Cavs episode previewing Sunday’s game, Locked on Warriors host Danny Leroux explained that Steve Kerr doesn’t love to use it as much as one might think. In short: expect to see it, maybe for one long stretch, but not for a huge amount of time.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
It’s really hard to know what to expect from this game. As we saw last year in matchups between these two teams, regular season games don’t always indicate the future that well. And with J.R. Smith out, the Cavs are down a key player as well.
But just based on a hunch, I’ll take the Cavs 104, Warriors 101. But I really have no idea and that’s the best part.