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2018 NBA Finals: Cavaliers at Warriors Game 1 preview

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Time for round four.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After every crazy thing that has happened to and around this Cavaliers team, it’s still the same opponent — the Warriors — waiting for them at the end. There’s something fitting about that.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors, Game 1

When: Thursday, May 31, 9 p.m.

Where: Oracle Arena — Oakland, California

Enemy Blog: Golden State of Mind

TV: ABC

Online: WatchESPN

Cavs injuries: Kevin Love (TBD - concussion protocol)

Warriors injuries: Andre Igudodala (OUT - knee)

Three keys to the game

  • Andre Iguodala’s health makes things interesting for the Cavaliers, at least in theory. On one end of the floor, it means LeBron James won’t have Golden State’s best option on him. That is definitely a good thing. On the other end, it means Golden State will start and play a wing who is less capable both as a defender and as a ball handler. It also means their death lineup is off the table, and at least one player the Cavs can hunt down on offense — be it a big like Kevon Looney or a guard like ex-Charge player Quinn Cook — on the floor. It’s a small crack in the armor, but it’s a crack Cleveland is happy to have.
  • Kevin Love’s status for Game 1 also hangs over the series. If he’s healthy, will Tyronn Lue start him at power forward next to Tristan Thompson or at center with Jeff Green in instead of Thompson? On defense, will Love be able to hide on a big or will the Warriors go smaller in an effort to attack Love aggressively? For Cleveland to have a shot in this series, they’ll need Love.
  • Right now, it’s also unclear exactly what Tyronn Lue’s plan is for the rotation. Will he match Green’s minutes with Kevin Durant, or have multiple guys defend Durant? Will James get any significant rest during the game or is he going to take on a bigger burden in order to carry the Cavs? Will Kyle Korver see more than 18-20 minutes? There are more questions too, but the point is this: no one can really know for certain what the Cavs’ rotation will be for Game 1 and beyond.

Key Matchup

Lue said this week that he will have multiple players on Warriors guard Stephen Curry, but it’s hard to see who beyond George Hill and J.R. Smith will take on that assignment. (LeBron James might for stretches, but it’s too much to ask of him to chase around Curry and be Mr. Everything on offense. On the bench, Lue did use Cedi Osman to defend guards like Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving this year, but throwing him that deep in the fire in his first NBA Finals seems unlikely.

This leaves Hill and Smith to defend Curry. Their job has to be to mark him the length of the floor and take away easy shots. That’s a difficult task for anyone. But this is Curry, and he’s going to go off at some point. But if he’s at least having to work for buckets, and maybe misses a few contested threes, that’s better than him draining wide-open threes that crush the Cavs’ morale.

Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction

The Cavs have a shot to steal a game right off the bat with Iguodala out. But the Warriors are probably too much. Warriors 115, Cavs 103.