Preview to the NBA finals? Too soon to tell, but it’s certainly more than just a regular season game when the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers meet to play, this time with LeBron James on the floor.
Because the Warriors have the best record in the league, winning eight of their last 10 games since dropping two in a row in late January. And because the Cavaliers are the hottest team in the NBA right now, winning 17 of their last 19 games, losing only three times since LeBron James came back from a two week injury break on January 13.
It’s a clash between two players who are going at it in the MVP awards division. Frankly, despite the fact that James is still probably the best player in the league, he isn’t always playing like he’s trying to win it. He has too much talent around him to try and do everything himself, which seems to be reserved for moments when there’s no other way.
Stephen Curry, averaging 23.8 points and 7.9 assists per game this season, is just as important to his team’s offensive execution and overall grand aspirations. They looked bad on their most recent loss to the Indiana Pacers with Curry out of action. He supposedly still has something of an issue with his ankle, but it’s not going to keep him out of this game.
It’s still not pain free, but it felt fine. Once you start playing the adrenalin kicks in and you don’t feel anything. It was good to just break a sweat in the first quarter, and feel active and not limited at all. It’s pretty special to be where we are, we have a lot of work left to do, obviously. We want to capitalize on our potential this year.
The Cavaliers have a more minor injury to worry about, as Shawn Marion will be out for the next couple of weeks. He’s no longer in the lineup as the Cavs seem to have found their balance with J.R. Smith playing alongside Kyrie Irving in the back court and Timofey Mozgov starting with Kevin Love and LeBron James up front. The Cavaliers were aggressive in making changes while they had the chance, getting rid of a negative influence like Dion Waiters and improving both their offense and defense with Smith, Shumpert and Mozgov.
Smith has been surprising in his maturity and ability to hold himself from trying to take over. With James calling the shots, Irving often being the main go to guy and Kevin Love as the first option for shots from the outside, Smith doesn’t have too many chances to touch the ball. He’s been making the most of them, and not trying to steal the show, averaging 12.6 points on 42.1% from the field. Not too impressive, but at least he’s not actually hurting the team.
When the Warriors and Cavaliers last met, James wasn’t on the court, and the Warriors walked away with an easy 112-94 victory. It’ll be very different in Cleveland with James playing very well into his point-forward role this Month, staying away from shooting too much (almost three field goal attempts less per game compared to January), but one last reminder: The Warriors are 33-3 with the lineup of Curry, Thompson, Bogut, Green and Barnes.