Warriors

NBA Gameday: Warriors favored by seven as The Trilogy begins

NBA Gameday: Warriors favored by seven as The Trilogy begins

OAKLAND -- After a full week of hype, The Trilogy at last arrives Thursday night when the Warriors and Cavaliers clash at Oracle Arena for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

After the Warriors took out Cleveland in six games to win it all in 2015, the Cavs roared back in 2016 by becoming the first team in Finals history to overcome a 3-1 deficit and emerge as champions.

These teams have history. You might say they represent the Ali-Frazier of the NBA.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 7

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving: Even though they won’t frequently defend each other, these two elite point guards are in better position than anyone else to dictate the action, as well as the direction of games and the series. Both are explosive on offense and excel in big moments. Simply put, the one with the best series gives his team the edge in the series.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: None reported.

Cavaliers: C Edy Tavares (R hand fracture) is listed as out.

ROAD TO THE FINALS

Warriors: Posted a 67-15 record in the regular season to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Swept Portland in four games in the first round, swept Utah in four in the Western Conference semifinals and swept San Antonio in four in the conference finals.

Cavaliers: Posted a 51-31 record in the regular season to earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Swept Indian in four games in the first round, swept Toronto in four in the conference semifinals, defeated Boston in five games in the conference finals.

SERIES HISTORY

The teams split two games in the regular season, the Cavs with a 109-108 victory on Christmas Day in Cleveland, the Warriors a 126-91 win on Jan. 16 in Oakland. Postseason included, the Warriors are 11-8 against the Cavs over the past three seasons.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

KD vs. LeBron: In terms of basketball stature, the marquee matchup of the series. Both have MVP awards. Both have won scoring titles. Both are headed to the Hall of Fame. Only James has won championships, and he has three. Each will spend some time guarding each other, and every eye in the building will be captivated. With pride on the line, expect each to try to bring his best defense.

Klay’s Shot: Klay Thompson has earned praise for his work on the defensive end through the first three rounds, but his shooting touch has been well below his standard. The Warriors say they aren’t worried. Thompson says he isn’t worried. Both will be thrilled to see him go on the kind of tear we’ve seen before. He can get hot enough to carry a team to victory.

Draymond’s Rage: Draymond Green generally loves to scrap in the paint with bigger players, and he’ll see plenty in this series, from Kevin Love to Tristan Thompson and James. It’s a tremendous challenge, and Green’s ability to hold up under these conditions is crucial for the Warriors.

Report: Rockets among teams interested in Jimmy Butler

Report: Rockets among teams interested in Jimmy Butler

Could Jimmy Butler go home to Houston?

Apparently, the Rockets are interested in trying to make it happen, though we're not sure how the numbers would work out.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets, Nets, Pistons, Clippers, Heat, 76ers and Blazers are "interested in talking further with Minnesota" about trying to acquire the four-time All-Star. The Cavs are also interested acquiring Butler, according to Woj.

Houston has a problem, though. They are already $11.444 million over the luxury cap threshold. Butler is set to make $20.445 million in 2018-19 and $19.841 million in 2019-20, so the Rockets would have to do salary cap gymnastics to make a deal work.

On Friday, GM Daryl Morey told The Houston Chronicle that the Rockets are "doing what we can to prepare for" the Warriors.

Acquiring Butler would certainly fit that messaging.

Daryl Morey admits Rockets make most decisions with Warriors in mind

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AP

Daryl Morey admits Rockets make most decisions with Warriors in mind

Grass is green, the sky is blue, and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is still obsessed with knocking off the Warriors.

Morey admitted as much in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, telling the paper that "a very high percentage" of the Rockets' decisions this offseason are made with one thing on their mind:

Same as last year, it's very likely to win the title we're going to have to beat the Warriors at some point. We're doing what we can to prepare for them. To me, that's what any rational person would do. I'm intrigued by some thinking it's odd that we say that. Maybe because it's not a norm. Ask any fan, 'Who do you have to beat to win the title?' They're going to say 'the Warriors.' It seems like [general manager] speak or coachspeak to not say that.

Morey told anybody who would ask last season that the Rockets were single-mindedly obsessed with beating the Warriors in the playoffs. Houston came close last season, jumping out to a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals, before Golden State stormed back to win the final two games in Rockets star Chris Paul's injury absence.

Morey responded with a substantial makeover of his roster. Defensive stoppers Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza are gone, while Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, Marquese Chriss, James Ennis and Brandon Knight are in. The Rockets were one of the West's best defensive teams last season, and Morey expects the team to withstand the loss of Ariza and Mbah a Moute.

"We can be [as strong defensively]," Morey told the Chronicle. "They were both extremely good defenders. So it will be a challenge. That was a big part of our meeting. [Assistant coach Roy Rogers] was walking through what changes and how excited he was with what he was planning to do and the personnel we have to be better than last year."

Morey -- as well as the Warriors -- will get a first look at whether or not Houston's offseason was successful on Nov. 17, when the Rockets host the defending NBA champions.