Preview: Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
A rematch of the 2015 Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers is the pick of a blockbuster Christmas Day in the NBA.
The Warriors completed a 4-2 series victory over the undermanned Cavs for their first championship in 40 years.
Led by Steph Curry, Golden State started 2015-16 in extraordinary form, going on a 24-0 run to begin the campaign.
The short-handed Cavs have also been impressive and will only get better as Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert hit top form on their returns from injuries.
WHERE THEY’RE AT
The Warriors have been the closest thing to unstoppable, holding a 27-1 win-loss record as they eye the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ best ever regular-season mark of 72-10. They have done it without coach Steve Kerr, who is recovering from multiple back surgeries in the off-season. Harrison Barnes has been nursing an ankle injury, while Andrew Bogut has also missed time. But those absences have mattered little for the most part, with Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green starring for the relentless and ruthless Warriors.
Despite their injuries early in the campaign, the Cavs still carry a 19-7 record heading into Christmas Day. Irving and Shumpert have been the biggest losses, while LeBron James came into the season with back worries and Kevin Love following shoulder surgery. However, James and Love have been crucial in seeing David Blatt’s team start well despite those concerns. They may still be below their absolute best, but the Cavs will get better – and a win over the Warriors would send a message.
The Warriors have won three straight since their first loss of the season – against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 12. They were tested by the Bucks once more before closing out a hard-fought win while claiming more comfortable wins over the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz.
For the Cavs, they enter Christmas on the back of six straight wins. The Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks have been on the receiving end.
BY THE NUMBERS
Warriors 113.0 (rank: 1st)
Cavaliers 104.9 (rank: 4th)
Warriors 97.9 (rank: 4th)
Cavaliers 98.8 (rank: 7th)
Warriors 42.3 (rank: 1st)
Cavaliers 36.1 (rank: 7th)
Steph Curry (regular-season averages)
This season: 31.2 points, 6.3 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 44.8 three-point percentage
Last season: 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 44.3 three-point percentage
LeBron James (regular-season averages)
This season: 26.4 points, 6.3 assists, 7.6 rebounds, 49.7 field-goal percentage
Last season: 25.3 points, 7.4 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 48.8 field-goal percentage
WHAT WE’LL LEARN
Plenty. Or very little. These teams will meet only twice this regular season and they will be must-watch encounters. This will provide the biggest indication yet as to just how good the Warriors are, given their dominance so far this season. The Cavs are still approaching their best and, given that, they may prove to be no match for Golden State at this stage of the campaign.