The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the best team in the NBA since LeBron James has come back from his two-week hiatus. The San Antonio Spurs aren’t in the kind of form they were last season, but they seem to be waking up at the right time, just when they’re beginning to get a whiff of the playoffs, waiting just around the corner.
The previous meeting between the two teams ended with a LeBron James turnover on the last play of the game, and the Spurs walking away with a 92-90 win in Cleveland. Things were different then. The Cavaliers were just in the middle of figuring out what this team is about, not to mention the different personnel. The Spurs havent’ changed in terms of players, but the team is different and has gone through quite a lot since then.
The Spurs are on a six-win run, tied for the longest in the NBA right now along with the Indiana Pacers. The Cavaliers have won just two in a row, but their form over the last couple of months has been more than slightly impressive. LeBron James is back and playing like all the mileage, minutes and injuries have nothing on him, including a 27-7-8 game in under 28 minutes as they destroyed the Mavericks on the road 127-94.
The Spurs should be in full strength, with Ginobili back after a short rest. Tim Duncan has been looking fatigued in recent games, but it’s not hurting the Spurs while Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are back in peak condition. Parker is averaging 24.5 points over the last four games following a long run of single digit scoring. Kawhi Leonard, playing in just 45 games this season, is averaging 22.4 points over his last five appearances, also coming with 8.4 rebounds and 3 steals per game.
Leonard is considered as the best in the league in slowing down LeBron James, but it’s more of a team effort kind of thing. The Cavaliers with Timofey Mozgov patrolling the paint offer a different kind of challenge than they did back in November or going further back to James with the Miami Heat in June, 2014.
Both teams have playoff positioning and seeding to worry about heading into this game, that right now isn’t a favorite to be an NBA finals matchup. But often the teams picking up steam in March and April have an advantage over others that excell earlier in the season and reach the finish line with their tongues hanging out. First and foremost it’s an excellent basketball game, but it might be the prelude to something bigger.