The Cavaliers are set to finish their six-game road trip with their 19th game against the Warriors in the last 3 years. Cleveland rebounded from a brief two-game losing streak with a relatively easy win against the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors have won eight of their last nine and despite rumblings around their late-game proficiency, the Warriors are, uh, really, really good. Sorry if that was a shocker for anyone.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
When: 8 p.m. EST
Where: Oracle Arena
Enemy Blog: Golden State of Mind
Music: Otis - Kanye West, Jay Z
What to Watch
- DeAndre Liggins was in the starting role when these two teams played on Christmas and did an admirable job on Stephen Curry. Liggins only played 13 minutes against the Kings after being demoted, but Iman Shumpert should be able to play a similar role with as much success as Liggins.
- Kyle Korver was able to get going in his third game in a Cavaliers uniform with an 18-point performance on 4-6 shooting from distance. The Warriors are a switch-y bunch, and it’ll be hard for him to get the wide open shots he’ll get in other games. His ability to make the Warriors pay when they do sag off will be paramount as he’ll have a tough time on the other end of the floor against them, especially when sharing the court when Kyrie Irving.
- It is worth mentioning that while Korver isn’t an elite one-on-one defender, I think it’s fair to expect him to do a nice job chasing Klay Thompson around off the ball. He’s big and savvy and knows how to run shooters off the line.
- Kevin Durant went nuts in the last matchup, dropping 36 points on 11-23 shooting. Some of his looks appeared to be a result of the Cavaliers focusing on taking other parts of Golden State’s game away, but the team also doesn’t have a ton of defenders they can throw at him. This is because nobody has a ton of defenders to throw at Durant, as he is amazing.
- Steph Curry, you might have heard, only took 11 shots against the Cavaliers on Christmas. The Cavs do a great job of bothering Curry, and to be honest, they maul him off the ball when he tries to dart around screens. If I’m Steve Kerr, I’m having Curry initiate a ton of offense out of the pick and roll to force the Cavaliers to play him straight up.
- It’s also important to note that the Cavaliers have been on the road for the last five days while the Warriors haven’t played since Thursday and haven’t played away from Oracle since January 8th. They definitely have the rest and comfort advantage in this one.
- Mike Prada’s Limited Upside pod after the Christmas game featured a former NBA video coordinator (seriously, you should listen to this), and everyone on the pod mentioned that they were surprised by how much both teams showed in their opening matchup before basically coming to the conclusion that, well, there aren’t many sets one team has that the other doesn’t know after 18 games in the last three seasons.
- The addition of Korver should add some wrinkles, but these two teams know each other inside and out, and I really think that when this era has played out, this will be in the same arena as the Lakers-Celtics rivalries in the 80’s. These two teams don’t particularly like each other, they’re both absurdly talented, and they’re too familiar with each other for their own good.
- Basically, it’s awesome.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers don’t have a ton to prove in this game. They’ve taken four straight wins from the Warriors, including their last two at Oracle Arena. The Warriors, on the other hand, despite having an absurd record, have much more drama and hoopla around their season. They’re also more rested and in an easier schedule spot. If the Cavs come out flat, and they’ve sort of earned the right to, the Dubs will run away with this one. Warriors 127, Cavaliers 114.