The big one of the 2015 NBA Christmas schedule is the first rematch of the NBA Finals, as LeBron James takes a fully healthy Cleveland Cavaliers team to play on the road against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, who have lost just once this season.
In this case, the numbers say it all about the Warriors, with an NBA best net rating of 15.1. They have the best offense in the NBA with 113 points per 100 possessions and allowing just 97.9 points per possessions, fifth best in the league.Their effective field goal percentage is a scary 56.2%, while hitting more 3-pointers than anyone else, and making them 42.3% of the time. Curry is having another MVP like season, and is right to think of himself as the best player in the NBA. However, this isn’t just Curry the Cavaliers are going to struggle against.
Since losing to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Warriors have won three games, all while playing at home, averaging 17.3 points of difference per win. It’s been like that all season. Their level of execution on offense, usually coming with one (often the third quarter) in which they simply enter another stratosphere of 3-point making and defensive stops, leaving the other team stunned and quite perplexed at what just hit them. Yes, Curry is averaging 31.2 points per game and sometimes it looks like he’s not even trying too hard. But there’s also Klay Thompson who just might be the best shooting guard in the league (19.3 points per game) and especially Draymond Green, who can do it all on both ends of the floor, and the Warriors are especially dangerous when he’s playing as the center.
While this is a finals rematch on paper, this is just a regular season game wrapped up nicely in Christmas tinfoil and played on primetime so the NBA can say it broke some ratings record. But it’s just one game, which is how veteran teams treat these things. The Warriors might be slightly younger, but they’re had enough experience not to get carried away. So do the Cavaliers, the best team in the East, constantly looking at what the Warriors are doing, comparing themselves to them, already seeing themselves clashing in another NBA Finals series.
Kyrie Irving is back for the Cavaliers, not doing much since he’s been cleared to play. He missed all but one game in the Finals last season, and probably has some special motivation to show what the Cavaliers might look like with him on the floor. Kevin Love missed almost all of the playoffs, and he’s been doing well this season as number two option on offense, averaging 17.5 points per game while grabbing 10.6 rebounds a night.
Without Harrison Barnes, it’ll be interesting to see if this turns into another no centers encounter like the Finals series, or will we see more lineups with Timofey Mozgov and Andrew Bogut, with the latter mostly given up on during the championship run. Again, the Warriors don’t use their best lineup as often as expected, mostly because they don’t need to. They’ve got so many other things working for them without using their X-Force. The Cavaliers, as funny as that sounds, still need to find out what’s theirs.
Prediction: It’s hard to know what to expect from this. But unless the Cavaliers can force the Warriors into a slow game and completely disrupt their offense while getting something special out of James, this is the Warriors game to lose.