NBA Gameday: Warriors favored in Christmas Day rematch with Cavs

NBA Gameday: Warriors favored in Christmas Day rematch with Cavs

Programming note: Immediately after the final horn of the Warriors-Cavs showdown on Christmas Day, change the channel to CSN Bay Area for a special Warriors edition of SportsNet Central.

The Warriors wrap up a brief three-game road trip on Christmas Day in Cleveland, where they face the Cavaliers in the most anticipated NBA game of the season.

The Warriors (27-4) have won seven straight, while the Cavaliers (22-6) have won four in a row and nine of 10.

This will be Kevin Durant’s introduction to the Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry, which dates back to the 2015 NBA Finals won by the Warriors. Cleveland legend LeBron James will be waiting, hoping to spoil Durant’s initiation.

The Warriors are undefeated this season in road games in the Eastern Conference and have won their last 14 such games.

The Cavaliers have played on Christmas Day 13 times, and they’ve never lost (5-0) when the game was played in Cleveland.

Warriors by 2.5

Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Perhaps the two best players in the league, and they are exceedingly familiar with each other. Durant is finesse and savvy, with occasional force. James is strength and smarts, with occasional finesse. Though the Warriors may have a deeper scoring arsenal than the Cavs, the winner of this matchup tilts the outcome toward his team.

Warriors: No injuries listed.

Cavaliers: G J.R. Smith (R thumb surgery) and C Chris Andersen (R ACL tear) are listed as out. G Mo Williams (L knee surgery) is not with the team.

Warriors C Damian Jones was recalled from D-League Santa Cruz and will join the team in Cleveland.

LAST 10:
Warriors: 9-1. Cavaliers: 9-1.

The Warriors last season swept both games and have won nine of the last 11 regular-season meetings. The teams have met in the past two NBA Finals, with the Warriors winning in six games in 2015 and the Cavaliers in seven in 2016.

Embrace the moment. As the marquee game on the NBA’s marquee regular-season day, the Warriors and Cavaliers may need to shed nerves in the opening minutes. Whichever team settles into a groove first will gain a decided advantage. The Warriors relish the notion of silencing an opponent’s arena.

Bombs from beyond. The Cavaliers rank second in 3-point attempts and percentage, the Warriors fifth in both categories. Four Cavs are shooting above 40 percent, led by forward Channing Frye, whose 45.1 ranks sixth. Surprisingly Cavs PG Kyrie Irving is shooting triples at a higher percentage than Warriors PG Stephen Curry. It’ll be a legitimate test for the Warriors, who lead the league in defending the trey. Cleveland ranks 13th.

Attack the rack, too. The weakest element of Cleveland’s defense is the interior, where the Cavs allow more points than all but two teams. There will be openings for Durant. Ian Clark and Curry will have opportunities to penetrate and Shaun Livingston should have room for his midrange jumper.

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

OAKLAND -- If Quinn Cook plays at anything close to the level he performed Friday night against the Kings, the Warriors should avoid any catastrophic stumbling in the absence of their top three scorers.

They stumbled plenty in a 98-93 loss to Sacramento, but not because of Cook. The two-way player who has spent most of the season with G-League Santa Cruz scored a team-high 25 points, shot 10-of-13 from the field and played respectable defense.

He did more than could have been reasonably expected.

“I felt like this was coming,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was fantastic. He really lit it up and gave us a huge boost.”

The Warriors ran into problems elsewhere, shared among the usually reliable veterans who need to be particularly reliable in the absence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Usual starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia combined to shoot 6-of-20.

Usual reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Nick Young shot a collective 13-of-39.

In the second half, when Warriors mustered only 34 points -- a season-low for any half -- the six vets combined to take 32 shots and missed 24.

Those are atrocious numbers and they explain what went wrong in a game that was there for the taking.

They’re also an anomaly.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Green said. “But we got some good shots. We got ‘Dre on a couple of pull-ups in the lane, I got a couple open shots, Nick got a couple open shots, Zaza got a couple open ones. D-West had one pop in and out. (Kevon Looney) had two pop in and out.

“We just got cold. But hopefully those shots will fall tomorrow.”

West, returning after missing four games with a cyst on his right arm, was 1-of-6 from the field. He came into this game as a 60.8-percent shooter this season.

Igoudala was 4-of-10; he shot 70 percent over the previous 10 games. Young was 5-of-15, well below his 44-percent shooting this season. Livingston’s 3-of-8 shooting is uncharacteristic of someone shooting at least 50 percent for four years running.

If history is any indication, Green (5-of-14) and Pachulia (1-of-6) are not going continue to miss at the rate they did in this game, the first this season in which the Warriors were without all three of their top scorers.

If history is any indication, the Warriors can’t be counted on to score 34 points on 27.3-percent shooting in the second half of a game.

“I loved how our guys battled,” Kerr said. “They really competed well and made some big plays. We just couldn’t get the ball to go down quite enough in the second half.”

That’s going to change, perhaps as soon as Saturday night in Phoenix, were the Suns are playing to lose.

So if Cook plays steady basketball, the Warriors will fall off and their fans won’t become a basket case while waiting for the three shooters. The Warriors surely believe that.

“He really showed up. I’ve been waiting on that Quinn,” Green said. “We needed that. It was great for him to come out and play like that. And most importantly, his shots were falling. Since he’s been playing (more often) he’s been playing well, but his shots weren’t really falling. But tonight, they fell for him.”

They won’t always fall at a rate of 77 percent. They won’t have to once his teammates drop in a few more of their own shots.

Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings


Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings

OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi sustained a sprained right ankle with 9:00 left in the second quarter of the Warriors-Kings game Friday night and did not return.

After dropping in a short hook shot with 9:04 left in the quarter, Casspi landed awkwardly, rolling his ankle and dropping to the floor clutching his lower leg. Down for a couple minutes, he eventually got up and limped into the locker room, accompanied by physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane.

Casspi played six minutes off the bench, producing 6 points, one assist and one rebound against his former team.

He joins Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Pat McCaw and Klay Thompson on the sideline.