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.

Jonas Jerebko caps off impactful night vs. Jazz with memorable game-winner

Jonas Jerebko caps off impactful night vs. Jazz with memorable game-winner

SALT LAKE CITY -- Jonas Jerebko was feeling his way through his new team, showing up early, staying late and always projecting professionalism. Until Friday evening, he didn’t have much to show for his commitment.

His coming out could not have been timed any better for the Warriors, or for Jerebko. Facing the Jazz, for whom he played last season, in an arena he knows well, he made the play that saved what had been a long, treacherous night.

Jerebko’s tip-in of a Kevin Durant miss with 0.3 seconds remaining lifted the Warriors to a 124-123 victory, delighting his teammates and breaking hearts all over what had been a roaring throng at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

“It felt great,” Jerebko said. "Being back here, I had a great time here. To come back, I said I wanted a win, so it felt great.”

It looked even better. After Jerebko’s tip dropped in, he was mobbed by so many Warriors the bench was practically vacant. Because the clock showed zeroes, officials were busy determining how much time might be left. The Warriors in their celebration were almost oblivious to that.

Utah’s last shot, a prayer by Donovan Mitchell, hit the side of the backboard and the Warriors ran into the locker with the joy that comes with a stirring comeback.

“It was an amazing moment,” Stephen Curry said. Curry scored 22 of his 31 points in the second half, when the Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit.

“I didn’t see how he got to that position, to get the offensive rebound. It was a timely tip-in. Once I saw him go crazy, I knew time was almost out. It’s a great moment. He’s new to the team and made a big play, especially being back here in Utah.

“I know it’s early in the season, but these type of games are exciting and fun. We’re thankful to get the win, so we’ve got to celebrate accordingly.”

Jerebko’s game-winner capped off a night when he made a considerable impact. Coming off a scoreless six-minute stint in the season opener, Jerebko came off the bench with 5:03 left in the first quarter and took exactly 30 seconds to do what the Warriors wanted when they signed him as a free agent in July.

He drained a 3-pointer. He buried another triple with 2:45 left in the quarter on his way to 10 points and six rebounds over 24 minutes. Jerebko was 4-of-5 from the field, including 2-of-3 from deep.

“It’s always nice to see the first one go in,” Jerebko said. “But I feel real comfortable shooting the ball. I’ve got great players around me, so if I’m open I’m going to shoot it.”

The Warriors were trailing most of the second quarter, all of the third and for the first five minutes of the fourth. Kevin Durant, who scored 24 points in a lackluster first half for the Warriors,

Golden State needed everything it got from Jerebko, along with 38 points -- 24 in a marvelous first half -- from Durant and Curry’s scoring output. Draymond Green rallied from a fitful first 39 minutes to play a strong final nine, finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

But this night belonged to Jerebko, who as a free agent signed a one-year deal in July. Everyone in the locker room was smiling, but no one’s grin was bigger than his.

“He’s one of us,” Kerr said. “Anytime you’re a new guy with a team, you’re trying to make your mark. You do it in practice by going hard. You do it with your work ethic.

“But as soon as you hit a game-winner, that pretty much solidifies it.”

The Warriors need Jerebko to provide scoring off the bench. He did on Friday.

And he did it with style.


Klay Thompson reminds Jazz they cut Jonas Jerebko after buzzer beater

Klay Thompson reminds Jazz they cut Jonas Jerebko after buzzer beater

Minutes after Jonas Jerebko broke his former teammates' hearts with a game-winning, buzzer-beating tip-in on Friday night, Warriors guard Klay Thompson reminded the Utah Jazz of something.

The Jazz could have kept the 31-year-old Swede ... not that they needed another reminder. 

Utah waived Jerebko on July 7, one year after he signed a two-year contract with the team. Five days later, his deal with the Warriors was official.

Jerebko played just under 24 minutes against his old club, scoring 10 points (on 4-of-5 shooting), with six rebounds, a steal, and an assist.  His ninth and tenth points -- and his sixth rebound -- were the difference on Friday. 

The Jazz got more salary-cap space when they cut him, but Jerebko got the last laugh on Friday.