While most (including me) expect to see the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers to face off in the Finals come June, the San Antonio Spurs may be the team most likely to disrupt the trilogy.
Tonight, the Cavs and Spurs face off for the first time this season.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. San Antonio Spurs
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
TV Information: ESPN
Enemy Blog: Pounding The Rock
Music: Red Right Hand - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Keys to the game
- So, the Spurs are really, really good. They are 33-9, good for second in the Western Conference and second in the NBA. They’re also great on the road at 17-4. And as of Saturday, they are fourth in offensive rating and third in defensive rating. The only other team in the top-five in both categories? The Warriors. The Cavs, for reference, are sixth in offensive rating and 14th in defensive rating.
- As good as they are, this isn’t the same old Spurs. There’s no more Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli looks pretty old and Tony Parker isn’t quite as zippy as he used to be. But Kawhi Leonard is unreal on both ends - he’s even developed his offense to point where he’s mimicking some of what James Harden does - and they’ve filled holes on the roster well. Guys like Jonathan Simmons, Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray have all stepped up nicely.
- For tonight, Pau Gasol is out, as is Parker. David Lee is expected to start in Gasol’s place as he did earlier this week with Murray possibly starting for Parker. For the Cavs, Kevin Love is questionable after missing Thursday’s game with back spasms. For more on the Gasol injury, I’d recommend this Locked on Spurs podcast.
- With the Spurs roster in mind, we may see some of the Kawhisland theory play itself out, particularly if Love plays. LeBron handles to the ball too much for it really impact the game, but if Murray or even Mills starts, Irving can dominate that matchup. LeBron, in theory, could work off ball more and be the screener for Irving in the PNR. In the latter scenario, the Leonard would have options: switch onto Irving or give the Cavs’ point guard an opening to attack the rim. If he does the former, LeBron will be defended by a point guard. Advantage, Cavs.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavs are a bit healthier and are at home. They’re also rested and the Spurs have been fairly active since the first of the year. It’ll be close, but I’ll take the Cavs 99, Spurs 96.