When: 5:00 PM PST (!)
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Radio: 95.7 The Game
Blog “buddy”: Fear the Sword
The Golden State Warriors and their fans are looking for some revenge after the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win the Christmas Day game. That made it four straight games that Golden State has dropped to Cleveland. Four too many, if you ask me!
On the one hand, this is a meaningless game. Any measure these teams take against one another is probably not going to carry much weight when/if they meet again in the post season. And yet… we all know that the Warriors are going to really, really want to win this game. So let’s be honest: this game matters. And to be frank, it matters a lot more to the Warriors than it does to the Cavs.
There has been a ton of coverage of this matchup, so I just want to quickly look at some of the recent trends for both teams.
Since Christmas, the Dubs have won seven of their last 8 games and appear to be well-positioned to win another this evening. Since the Cavs loss, we have seen a more aggressive Steph Curry which includes significantly more pick and roll action with Durant. The pick and roll is something that LeBron James and the Cavs have been going to over and over against us, so I am very much looking forward to giving them a taste of their own medicine.
Of course, because we have to find something to complain about, I will point out that the one loss (against the Grizzlies) was the result of an epic 4th quarter meltdown. Durant, for all his strengths, has not fared well at the end of close games:
In the last five minutes of games this season, when the score is within five points for either team, Durant is shooting just 28 percent from the field. He has only made one three-pointer in 11 attempts.
So while the spotlight will probably shine the brightest on Steph Curry, I think it’s safe to say that this game could serve as another test for Durant. He had a great game last time these teams faced off, but will need to close out the game stronger.
The Warriors win by playing smart team basketball; as you can see from the graphic, the assists and offensive efficiency are both leading the league.
The Toronto Raptors are the rare team that's thoroughly dominant on offense even without providing assists on most field goals. pic.twitter.com/11DIRQS3cv— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) January 15, 2017
We will need all the offense we can muster against the Cavs. Another 41 point quarter (like the 3rd quarter against the Pistons in our last game) should help... as long as the Warriors can prevent another end of game collapse.
Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m a little worried that maybe the Cavs have figured the Warriors out. They have been destroying us with the pick and roll via the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to take Steph Curry off the dribble. There’s no shame in not being able to stop those guys in single coverage, but if they keep attacking Curry, it puts the Warriors in a bad spot. Four games in a row now that we’ve lost to this team. I’d like to see the Warriors put a stop to this trend and this would appear to be issue #1. The most basic counter measure would be to have other people help Curry. However, the Cavs just added literally the most efficient spot up shooter in the NBA, which brings me to my next point.
Did you know the Cavs and Warriors are the only two teams in the NBA to have three 20+ Points Per Game (PPG) scorers? The flip side to this is that neither team plays with a full bench unit, preferring instead to mix and match while generally leaving one or two of their best players on the court at all times. You can see that (on paper at least) the Warriors bench is better than the Cavs – just like our starters.
After struggling in his first couple games, new Cav Kyle Korver went for 18 points (4-6 shooting from deep) against Sacramento. The Cavs are likely to put James in with potent sharp shooters Korver and Channing Frye. If those two are hitting their shots, it can quickly flip the balance of bench power.
I’m calling this one for the Warriors, mostly because they are just going to want this game more than Cleveland. Durant went off last time we faced the Cavs (36 points on 11-23 shooting), so I am going to go out on a limb and say Steph Curry will be our leading scorer. Hopefully the refs open their eyes and call an off-ball foul or nine against the Cavs – who have made it their game plan to mug Curry as a way of “defending” him.
I’ll go even further out onto that limb here, and say that this game is going to get a little chippy, with at least one flagrant foul. Oh, and future all star Zaza Pachulia is going to outplay the Cavs’ centers.
Strap in folks, this is going to be a fun one!