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|A position-by-position look at the matchups in the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers:
CENTER: Kevon Looney vs. Tristan Thompson. An afterthought much of the season Korey Toomer Jersey 49ers , Thompson rejoined the Cleveland rotation in the playoffs and has provided the Cavaliers with 6.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Warriors coach Steve Kerr went with Looney against Houston but could go a number of ways in this series, with JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and Jordan Bell among his options. And of course, the Warriors are at their best when they go with none of the above, using Draymond Green as the center in a small-ball lineup. Edge: Warriors.
POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green vs. Kevin Love or Jeff Green. The Cavaliers are hoping Love can return after the All-Star missed Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals because of a concussion. Jeff Green started in his place and scored 19 points in the victory in Boston. Neither player can match the all-around production the Warriors get from Draymond Green, with his defense, rebounding and passing. All he has to do is keep his emotions in check. Edge: Warriors.
SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Durant was last year’s NBA Finals MVP, is the No. 3 scorer by average among players who have played at least 10 finals games (32.9 points), and still might be the second-best forward in this series. That’s how good James remains at 33, as he proved while averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In his eighth straight NBA Finals, he probably needs to produce numbers like that in every game to give the Cavaliers any chance. Edge: Cavaliers.
SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson vs. J.R. Smith. The Warriors might not even be here without Thompson’s clutch performance in Game 6 of the West finals against Houston. He can heat up in a hurry from the outside, and as an added benefit no longer has to spend so much energy defending Kyrie Irving as he did so often in the last two NBA Finals. Smith can also heat up, but can also be prone to prolonged bad streaks and losses of concentration, and the Warriors feast on those. Edge: Warriors.
POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry vs. George Hill. Injured to start the postseason, Curry showed just how explosive he and the Warriors remain with some big third quarters in the West finals. There were questions as he struggled earlier in that series if he still wasn’t fully healthy, but he sure looked good enough at the end. Hill is a steady veteran and the most productive of the four players the Cavaliers acquired at the trade deadline Authentic Darius Leonard Jersey , but like a lot of Cavaliers will be at a speed disadvantage in this series. Edge: Warriors.
RESERVES: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, McGee, Bell, David West, Pachulia, Quinn Cook and Patrick McCaw vs. Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, Jose Calderon and Cedi Osman. Iguodala’s health looms as the biggest question entering the series after he was sidelined for much of the West finals with a bone bruise in his leg. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP leads the defensive effort against James and is part of the Warriors’ best lineup. Korver’s shooting is a key off the Cleveland bench, but Clarkson, Nance and Hood have never become regularly reliable after being acquired in February. Edge: Warriors.
COACHES: Steve Kerr vs. Tyronn Lue. This was a challenging season for both. Lue stepped away from his team for a while for health reasons, as Kerr had to do during the last two seasons. Kerr acknowledged the struggles of keeping his team motivated this season, even letting the players coach themselves in timeouts during one game. Both coaches pushed the right buttons when their teams were pushed to the brink in earlier rounds Authentic Geron Christian Jersey , but Kerr just has more of them at his disposal. Edge: Warriors.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Indiana Pacers have in front of them a playoff opponent who they beat in three of four games this season.
No one’s kidding themselves about it, though: The Pacers know playoff LeBron and playoff Cleveland Cavaliers are a whole different beast.
The No. 4 Cavs host the No. 5 Pacers in Game 1 of a first-round series Sunday.
“We all know the playoffs are a different ballgame,” Pacers guard Darren Collison said.
The Cavs swept the Pacers out of the first round last season. Both teams have changed so dramatically since that series so in a sense, little can be taken from it.
Where that line of thinking stalls, though, is at the feet of LeBron James.
James, arguably the most dominant player in the first round of the NBA playoffs, has won 21 games in a row in the opening round (an NBA record). He’s never lost a first-round series (12-0), nor even a Game 1 of any first round. The last time his team lost any game in the first round was May 6, 2012, when the Miami Heat lost by two to the New York Knicks in Game 4.
That series was over the next game.
“We do a great job of getting prepared,” said James, who’s averaging 29 points, 8.8 boards, and 6.9 assists in the first round. “And every team I’ve been on has always been prepared going into the first round of the postseason and I feel like we’re well prepared again.”
Paul George was the Pacers’ best player last season. He was traded to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo, who is now Indiana’s best player. He averaged career highs in points (23.1 per game) Cheap Kyzir White Jersey , rebounds (5.2), and assists (4.3).
Domantas Sabonis was another key piece in the George trade. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 7.7 boards, mostly off the bench.
Collison is Indiana’s new point guard. He averaged 12.4 points and led the NBA with a .468 3-point field-goal percentage.
The Cavs’ changes are even starker, perhaps because they’ve undergone two sets of them.
Cleveland traded Kyrie Irving last summer for Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder, and two draft picks. The Cavs also signed Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade.
On Feb. 8, Thomas, Crowder, Rose, and Wade (and Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert) were all traded away for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson.
All four of the Cavs-Pacers games took place before those trades.
So if you’re trying to glean anything for this series from what happened in the regular season, don’t.
“They’re moving the basketball, getting up and down the court a little quicker, they’re shooting better as a team,” Indiana forward Thaddeus Young said of Cleveland. “I think they’re better with those things since the trades and they’ve got some really good pieces. But at the end of the day Leonard Fournette Jersey , they’re still a beatable team.”
James said “I don’t have any concerns” about this series, though he said the Cavs and Pacers were the fourth and fifth seeds, respectively, for a reason.
“Both teams played good ball at times throughout the regular season,” James said. “Obviously their season, from the outside looking in, was more productive than ours because of what they went through in the offseason. But we went through a lot in the offseason as well. It’s a good matchup and we look forward to the challenge.”
The Cavs have been to the last three NBA Finals, but have only four players (James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and JR Smith) left from the 2016 title team. Four players — Cedi Osman, Zizic, Clarkson, and Nance — have never played a playoff game.
And for the first time in his career, Love will be Cleveland’s second scoring option in the playoffs instead of its third.
“We’re going to be a tough team to beat in four games,” Love said. “We have the best player in the world and a lot of guys that are hungry to go out and prove what they can do.”
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