Keys to the game: Cavaliers at Warriors
The eyes of the NBA will be on the Cavaliers and Warriors on Sunday night – as Klay Thompson makes his much-anticipated return against a team he faced 22 games in four epic NBA Finals between the two clubs.
Thompson, who hasn’t played since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals against Toronto, has struggled with both the ACL injury that initially ruled him out and a ruptured Achilles suffered last summer to get here – returning to action after an absence of 941 days.
As for the Cavaliers, they announced their six-game West Coast roadie in style on Friday night.
Rajon Rondo made his debut and got off to a great start, registering 11 points, five rebounds and three assists in the first half, while Cedi Osman made his comeback after a six-game layoff and drilled huge four. triples in the last period to ice the victory.
Darius Garland has been important all night for Cleveland and led both teams with 26 points, 10 of 17 from the floor, including 5 of 8 from long distance, adding a record six assists. In his last five games, Vandy’s third-year man is averaging 24.0 points for 52 percent of shots on the ground with 6.6 assists.
Evan Mobley followed with 18 points, passing 7 for 14 from the floor, adding eight boards, three assists and a pair of blocked shots and Jarrett Allen doubled in his third outing in a row – finishing with 13 points and a game – high of 13 rebounds, adding a pair of steals.
Cedi Osman, who hadn’t played since December 22, finished with 14 points – dropping to 4 for 7 from beyond the arc – all in the fourth quarter of Friday’s victory.
Even after two straight losses, at 29-9, the Warriors have the second-best score in the league – behind the division-leading Suns (30-9).
After being eliminated by the Mavericks in Dallas on Wednesday night, the shorthanded Warriors fell again the following night in New Orleans.
Playing without Steph Curry and Draymond Green – both of whom are expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday night – Golden State fell in a close decision against the Pelicans, with Andrew Wiggins leading the Dubs with 21 points.
Following Sunday night’s showdown – which will air nationally on NBATV – Wine & Gold is traveling by bus to Sacramento for a Monday night clash with the Kings. From there, it’s a Wednesday night visit to Salt Lake City for a battle with the Jazz before ending the trip with a back-to-back – to San Antonio on Friday and to OKC the following night.
These two teams met earlier this season in a wild ride at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Wine & Gold led by a dozen bakers after three quarters before Steph Curry caught fire – scoring 20 of his 40 points as Golden State beat Cleveland in the final quarter, 36-8, to regain victory in the mid- November.
The Warriors have the advantage, both in the regular season and in the NBA Finals. In the all-time regular-season series, the Warriors lead, 65-52, and have won nine straight games, including both contests last year.
The all-time regular-season goal mark for Cleveland belongs to LeBron James, who scored 42 points in a home win over the Dubs in February 2015. For Golden State, it’s the incomparable Rick Barry, who scored 48 points in a Warriors victory in 1974. (And yes, he made all eight free throws attempted.)
To be cross-country rivals, the Cavaliers and the Warriors have an interesting relationship.
Akron-born Steph Curry is of course the son of Dell Curry – who spent one season (1987-88) with the Cavs, averaging 10.0 points in 79 games. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was with the Cavaliers a bit later, from 1989 to 1993, and in his three full seasons, has never shot less than 43 percent from long range, shooting .472 (133-for-282) in his Cavaliers career.
In the current roster, Andrew Wiggins was once the Cavaliers’ first pick in 2014 in Kansas before being transferred – along with the previous year’s first pick Anthony Bennett – to Minnesota for Kevin Love in a three-team blockbuster. Maintaining 117 career games with Golden State, the native Canadian is averaging 20.7 points per game.