Two teams coming off visits to Brooklyn with vastly different experiences go head-to-head Thursday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Golden State Warriors.
The game will be the second in two nights for the injury- and illness-ravaged Cavaliers, who were thumped 109-99 by the Nets on Wednesday.
Brooklyn had taken the court still stinging from a 117-99 drubbing absorbed courtesy of the Warriors on Tuesday night.
The three-team round robin of sorts concludes in Cleveland, where the Warriors have enjoyed more than their fair share of success over the years.
Golden State will tip off with the best record in the NBA at 12-2 as it pursues a fourth title in eight years. The first three of those championships came at the expense of the Cavaliers in the 2015, 2017 and 2018 Finals.
The Warriors have captured the last three regular-season games on Cleveland’s home court in this series, including 119-101 last April.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr isn’t thinking NBA Finals just 14 games into the season, but does like the path his team has taken so far this year.
“It’s fun to be back in the spotlight again,” he assured after Tuesday’s nationally televised win. “Our team is really enjoying being back here.”
The spotlight surely has been following Stephen Curry, an Akron, Ohio, native whose dad, Dell, played for the Cavaliers. Just 101 days after Stephen Curry was born, Dell was plucked from Cleveland by the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA expansion draft, prompting the family to move south.
Stephen Curry enjoyed his last three Ohio regular-season homecomings, leading the Warriors to three wins by averaging 32.7 points. He had 33 in Golden State’s triumph last April.
The Cavaliers got 25 points from Ricky Rubio and 24 from Darius Garland in Wednesday’s loss at Brooklyn, but couldn’t overcome the absences of Collin Sexton (torn meniscus in left knee), Evan Mobley (sprained right elbow), Jarrett Allen (illness) and Lauri Markkanen (COVID-related).
Cleveland has left the door open for Allen and Markkanen to possibly return to face Golden State, but might have to go without veteran Kevin Love, just back from a COVID-related absence, on the second night of a back-to-back.
Love, who had missed the previous eight games, had 11 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes against the Nets.
With Golden State waiting in Cleveland, Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff thought his guys might have lost focus early on against the Nets.
“The second half was more who we are,” he said of his team’s rally within nine points after having been down by 23 in the first half. “That’s the thing with us. We can’t be anybody else. We can’t be the Brooklyn Nets. We can’t be the Golden State Warriors. We have to be the Cleveland Cavaliers and play Cavaliers basketball all the time.”
The Warriors have beaten the Cavaliers eight straight times in the regular season dating back to Christmas Day 2016 and 12 in a row including the 2018 NBA Finals.
–Field Level Media