The Golden State Warriors will host the Cleveland Cavaliers in an NBA Finals rematch on Christmas Day, but the meeting will be missing some star power. Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is expected to remain out while recovering from an ankle injury and Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas is not quite ready to make his season debut.
Curry missed the last eight games and the team has no plans to rush him back for the marquee matchup. “If we weren’t playing Cleveland on Christmas and I told you Steph hasn’t even played in a 3-on-3 game, he hasn’t had any contact at all and the game is 48 hours from now, you’d say, ‘Steph’s not going to play,’” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Saturday. “But because it’s the magnitude of the game, everybody wants to know, but we can’t let that affect our judgement. He can’t play. It would be completely irresponsible if he did.” Thomas was brought in from the Boston Celtics in the trade that sent away Kyrie Irving over the summer but has been battling a hip injury and will not make a targeted Christmas return. “That was a target for my kids,” Thomas told reporters. “So they mad, but I’m fine with it. I have no rhythm, so there is no way I can play in an actual game right now and be very effective like I’m used to being. Slowly that will come back and I’ll get a feel for it. I also got to get in some shape.”
TV: 3 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (24-9): Cleveland, which fell 4-1 in the NBA Finals to the Warriors last spring in the third straight Finals meeting between the teams, comes in hot with wins in 19 of its last 21 games. The Cavaliers bounced back from a rare loss by edging the Chicago Bulls 115-112 on Thursday behind 34 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals from LeBron James. The superstar forward, who averaged 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Finals last spring, is carrying Cleveland once again by putting up 28.4 points on 57 percent shooting, 9.2 assists and 8.2 rebounds.
ABOUT THE WARRIORS (26-7): Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been carrying the load while Golden State battles through a series of injuries but finally hit a cold spell as the team’s 11-game winning streak came to a halt with a 96-81 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. Thompson and Durant combined to go 1-of-15 from 3-point range, and the team shot 3-of-27 from 3-point range. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the hole,” Kerr told reporters. “Sometimes when the ball doesn’t go in the hole, it affects the body language and energy of the guys. We had some good shots early that didn’t go in. It just didn’t happen for us. But I’m really proud of our guys. Eleven in a row, given all the injuries. It’s hell of a streak. We’ll flush this one down the toilet and move on.”
1. Warriors F Draymond Green had x-rays on his elbow come back negative after Saturday’s game and is expected to play Monday.
2. Cleveland C Tristan Thompson is 9-of-12 from the floor in five games since returning from a calf injury.
3. Golden State PG Shaun Livingston (knee) sat out the last four games but could play Monday while C Zaza Pachulia (shoulder) missed the last six and remains day-to-day.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers 110, Warriors 107