Game Preview: Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers – December 25th, 2016
UPCOMING MILESTONES: With one three-pointer, Richard Jefferson accumulates 1,000 in his career. In addition, with his first point, Kevin Loves reaches 10,000 career points.
To celebrate the holiday season, the first seed in the East welcomes the first seed in the West for a high-octane NBA Finals rematch. Despite only being a regular season game, the kindling rivalry between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors after meeting in the Finals two years in a row promises to bring tension and a certain energy to the matchup. With newly-acquired Kevin Durant cementing his role within the team, the Warriors are currently a league-best 27-4, including 15-2 on the road. In their last 10 games, both teams are 9-1.
On offense, the Warriors are the paradigm of efficiency. Their ball movement has been nothing short of elite, and they average 74.5 points off of assists per game – best in the NBA and 11.8 more than the next highest – off of their league-high 31.3 assists per game. By moving the ball and finding the open man, the Warriors are able to create 34.5 points per game from catch-and-shoot attempts.
From the field, they are shooting 49.6%, once again first in the NBA. Beyond the arc, they are shooting 38.0% – good for fifth best. In addition, they are shooting league highs both inside the restricted area and on mid-range shots. To make matters worse, when their opponents slip up they strike fast and efficiently, averaging the most fast break points per game. In total, they average 113.4 points per 100 possessions, second only to the Toronto Raptors.
Despite having a slow start on defense this season, they’ve since redefined themselves and have become almost as elite as they are on offense. Around the rim, they’ve stifled their opponents with a league best 6.3 blocks per game. In addition, they average the most steals per game with 9.7. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they are also holding their opponents to the lowest three point percentage in the league – 32.4%. Furthermore, they are allowing just 100.6 points per 100 possessions, second only to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Key players to watch for on the Warriors will be Kevin Durant – averaging 25.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game – Stephen Curry – averaging 24.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game – Klay Thompson – averaging 21.3 points per game – and Draymond Green – averaging 8.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game.
With the Warriors sporting the best Net Rating and record in the league, they’ll pose a definite threat for the Cavaliers. If Kevin Love, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving can each contribute in their own role like they did in Game 7 this year with the Stop, the Block, and the Shot, a Wine-and-Gold winner on Christmas may very well be a reality this year. Regardless of the outcome, though, nothing will change the results from the previous seven meetings between these teams in June, where the Cavaliers secured their first NBA Championship over Golden State. If it comes down to Warriors and Cavaliers in the Finals again this year, this matchup will certainly be something both teams will look back to in forming a strategy and game plan.
Tipoff is set for 2:30 EST and will be broadcast on ABC.