Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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For the Cleveland Cavaliers, something wicked this way comes.
“Wicked” in the form of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who are once again leading the league with a 35-9 record headed into a clash with Cleveland on Monday at Quicken Loans Arena.
While coach Steve Kerr’s Warriors are coming off a 127-125 win at Toronto on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. In that game, Golden State scored 81 points and had 22 assists to one turnover… in the first half.
Even Kerr was impressed.
Steve Kerr on the 81-point, 22-assist, 1-turnover first half: "Probably the best offensive half of basketball I can ever remember" pic.twitter.com/N6YgT2bjeo
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 14, 2018
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is well aware his squad, coming into this one at 26-16 and losers of eight of its 11 games, had better be ready to accept the challenge that comes with playing the Warriors, who have played the Cavaliers in three consecutive NBA Finals.
“If not, it’ll be embarrassing, so the guys will be ready to play,” Lue said after practice Sunday. “We’re playing the defending champs. They’re a tough team, they’re a good team and we’re ready to play and we got to be up for the challenge.”
“Embarrassing” is nothing new for the Cavaliers when it comes to playing Golden State on Martin Luther King Day.
The Warriors have made a habit of crushing Cleveland on MLK Day. Golden State crushed the Cavaliers a year ago on the saw day, 126-91, at Oracle Arena. Two seasons ago, it was an even worse beating, 132-98. Then-Cleveland coach David Blatt was fired before the curtain dropped on the week.
The two teams, which form the best rivalry in the NBA, tangled on Christmas Day at Oracle, Golden State prevailing, 99-92. In that game, neither Isaiah Thomas (hip) nor Steph Curry (ankle) played.
Since then, while the Cavaliers have gone south, posting just a 2-6 mark, the Warriors are (surprise) rolling, winning eight of their last 10.
Both Thomas and Curry will be in their respective starting lineups come Monday.
Thomas has played four games this season for the Cavaliers, performing well in the first two, then struggling mightily in the second pair.
Meanwhile, Curry has returned and Golden State has not missed a beat.
Thomas said he is amped for his first taste of the Cavalier-Warriors rivalry, one he has watched along with everyone else.
“It’s exciting,” he said after practice Sunday. “High, intense game, guys really care about that game and really want to win those games. I’m excited about the opportunity to get back to playing again after getting a few days off and also trying to figure out how to get a win.
“We’re in that mode right now where we just need a win to get that confidence back and get our mojo back a little bit. It’s a great opportunity to go against a really good team and we’ll be ready.”
And he is relishing another opportunity to go head-to-head with Curry, a former unanimous NBA MVP.
“Competing against one of the best… one of the top guards in the world,” Thomas said. “It goes back to when I used to play for the (Sacramento) Kings, we always used to battle. So it’s fun playing against really great competition. He’s a hell of a player.
“It’s tough to play against him, but at the same time, he’s got to guard up, too. We’re going to battle and we’re going to do whatever we can to get our team a win (Monday) night.”
To do so, Lue, as he often does, said the Cleveland offense can be a match to light the fuse for its defense, with Thomas perhaps serving as the ignitor.
“Be able to attack, scoring the basketball,” Lue said. “We know they’re going to switch a lot of things, so when we get into the paint and create something for himself or somebody else. We’re going to need that and then you just got to get back to making some shots.
“We haven’t made shots that whole road trip, so getting back to making some shots, continue to play with pace and it’ll be fine.”