For the third straight Christmas, the Cavs and Warriors will face off with each other. And for the third straight time, it will be an NBA Finals rematch. Although, this year it won’t be as star-studded compared to the two previous years. Both teams will be without their star point guards. Cavs’ guard Isaiah Thomas has yet to play a game this season as he continues to heal from a hip pointer injury suffered in last year’s playoffs and Stephen Curry has missed the previous eight games with an ankle injury suffered on December 4th in a win against the Pelicans. Due to the lack of superstar point guards, the small forward matchup between Lebron James and Kevin Durant will headline this game.
The Warriors are coming off of their worst 3-point shooting night during Steve Kerr’s tenure as head coach of the team only making 3-out-of-27 shots behind the arc shooting at an 11 percent clip in their loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. A terrible shooting night like that is abnormal for one of the most efficient offenses in the league. But lately, their inefficiency beyond the arc has been a consistent as of late. In the past three games, the Warriors have averaged a 23.6 percent shooting percentage. It’s obvious the team has been missing their best shooter, and arguably the best shooter ever in Curry.
Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia is expected to sit out for the eighth straight game on Monday with a left shoulder injury. Guard Shaun Livingston is expected to play after sitting out the previous four games nursing his sore right knee. Forward Draymond Green is also expected to play after the x-rays on his left elbow came back negative on Saturday.
The Warriors loss to the Nuggets snapped an 11-game winning streak. On Christmas, they will look to open up the present of a new win streak as they bounce back from one of their worst performances as a team this season.
Lebron James and the Cavaliers have yet to play one of the league’s elite teams besides their matchup with the Celtics in the season’s opener. Regardless of the Warriors being Curry-less, they are still a force to be reckoned with as they still have three other All-Stars within the starting lineup.
The Cavs’ recently went on an impressive 13-game win streak and have regained position to snatch the top seed in the Eastern Conference from the Celtics but none of that matters if they cannot compete with the one team that the entire NBA has been looking for a way to defeat. It may not seem like it now, but Monday’s game will be the biggest test yet for the Cavs this season. Prior to this, the Cavs have yet to be tested this season other than the minor test of figuring out a way to climb out of a sub .500 hole 12 games into the season when everybody assumed the end was near for the Lebron and the Cavs’ consecutive finals appearances. For a team to know if they are worthy of a championship run, they must withstand the test of defeating the top teams in the league throughout the season and for the Cavs, this test begins on sport’s most beloved holiday –Christmas.
The Cavs will be without point guard Derrick Rose on Monday as he continues to nurse his ailing sprained ankle. Rose has only appeared in seven games in his first season with Cleveland. Shooting guard JR Smith (knee) and head coach Tyronn Lue (illness) will both be available for Monday’s game after missing Thursday’s win versus the Bulls.
The Cavs will receive a huge boost by their bench as they take advantage of Curry’s absence routing the Warriors in a 103-95 victory.