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Preview: Warriors battle Cavs on Christmas: Rivalry rages on, despite injuries

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Both teams will be missing their star point guards, but Kevin Durant and LeBron James are picking up the slack at elite levels.

Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Game Information

Golden State Warriors (26-7) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-9)

How to watch

Date: Monday Dec. 25, 2017

Time: 12:00 p.m. PST

Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA


Radio: ESPN Radio

Injury report

Warriors: Shaun Livingston (knee, probable), Kevon Looney (gluteal strain, probable), Zaza Pachulia (shoulder, probable), Stephen Curry (ankle, out).

Cavaliers: Isaiah Thomas (hip, out), Iman Shumpert (knee, out), Derrick Rose (knee, out).

Buddy Blog: Fear The Sword

Merry Christmas to all of Dub Nation! To all the Cavs fans: Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s the most wonderful time of the year again. It’s that special time when family and friends gather together to share love and Christmas cheer over spiked eggnog and beautifully wrapped gifts.

For Golden State Warriors fans, Christmas Day also marks the first battle of the season against our sworn blood-rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two franchises have met in the Finals an unprecedented three straight times.

Know your history

The Warriors won the first series in 2015, lost the rematch in 2016 on a Kyrie Irving dagger, and then combined forces with Kevin Durant to banish Cleveland into the Phantom Zone last June. The two teams are heavily favored to meet for a shocking fourth straight meeting, and I’m sure Dubs fans wouldn’t mind seeing LeBron James and his goons take ANOTHER L in the Finals. That would make us, what, 3-1 against the Cavs in championship series? I hear that used to be a popular combination of numbers over there in Ohio (stifles giggle).

2017 NBA Finals - Game Five
Steph Curry chilling after watching Cleveland shatter.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I really enjoyed ESPN’s timeline of the bevy of highs and lows in this rivalry. Christmas Day games are always marquee events, and the animosity from the Finals rivalry has heated up the last two Decembers. The Warriors won the first Christmas battle 89-83 and lost the second 109-108 on yet another Irving dagger (see a pattern?).

How will Dubs versus Cavs Christmas Edition III play out?

LeBron James is putting Cleveland on his back (as usual)

Good news: The Warriors decimated the Cavaliers so badly last Finals that Kyrie Irving forced a trade that netted Cleveland Jae Crowder and an injured Isaiah Thomas from the Boston Celtics. The Cavs stayed proactive by signing Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade — AKA the “Glass Bros” — to share ball-handling duties while Thomas recovers from his damaged hip.

The bad news: An angry LeBron James has activated Terminator mode to lift the Cavs despite a rash of injuries to his teammates. The most dominant player (besides Durant or Stephen Curry) in the NBA seems to have somehow gotten better in his 15th season, at age 32.

2017 NBA Finals - Game Five
LeBron desperately seeking a triple-double so he can’t be blamed for a loss.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

According to

James is having the most efficient season of his career. He's currently shooting 58 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. That's a better three point percentage than Steph Curry has this year. LeBron has turned into a knockdown shooter, while looking like he's hardly lost a step athletically. He's averaging more than 28 points a game, more than 8 assists, and more than 8 rebounds a game, and has his team playing some of the best basketball the league has seen this year. And he's doing all that while averaging far fewer free throw attempts than he ever has in his career.

The Cavs have won eight of their last 10 games, and have the third highest-rated offense in the league behind the Houston Rockets and the Warriors. However, their 27th-ranked defense leaves much to be desired. The Cavs are a work in progress, and they should look a lot different come playoff time once they get their team healthy.

As usual, as long as James is breathing oxygen, Cleveland remains a dangerous team. Lifetime, he is averaging 28 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists against the Warriors.

Wounded Warriors are dominating December

Speaking of health: The banged-up world champs are somehow 10-1 in December despite injuries to two-time MVP Curry, Olympian Draymond Green and a plethora of rotation players.

Kevin Durant is absorbing the majority of the play-making duties in Curry’s absence, and he’s looking like an MVP again. Durant is averaging 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, with 2 blocks this month. His head-to-head matchup against his rival, James, should provide plenty of fireworks.

For those holding out hope that Curry may return in a Christmas miracle, coach Steve Kerr seems to be pretty clear on that subject.

I’m sure some anxious Dubs fans reacted like this after hearing that depressing news:

Hey! Chin up, folks! It might be better this way. Now Cavs fans can’t cry too hard about this game not mattering because the Warriors were too healthy. Honestly, this game obviously isn’t a true barometer of how a Finals matchup would go since the point guards won’t play. At the same time, the champs do relish any victory over the petty monster that is LeBron James.

In the true spirit of Christmas, I’m sure the eager Warriors will be in a giving mood ... as in giving Cleveland another L to hold.

Gold-blooded Christmas prediction: Warriors 103, Cavaliers 99