The tradition continues at 3 pm when the two teams that have met in the NBA Finals for the last three years play each other for the third consecutive time the following Christmas.
The Warriors, of course, have won two of the three Finals series and the Christmas series is tied 1–1. Golden State won the championship in 2015 and a low-scoring game on Christmas later that year. Cleveland came back from 3–1 down in the 2016 Finals and made a similarly staggering comeback in the final couple minutes later in December. If the pattern holds true, Golden State should cruise this year.
The Dubs are 4.5-point home favorites.
The NBA surely has numbers on when the ratings are the highest on Christmas Day but I have a bit of a bone with playing the best game at this time. It usually doesn’t matter, as I’m locked out of all games until I leave the family gathering in the evening but in the rare instance that the tv gets on, and stays on, the 3 pm is starting to peak when we’re getting ready to sit down for dinner. My family likes an early evening dinner with nibbles throughout the day, but I guess a lot of people do dinner at the conventional time, or even a Christmas lunch. It’s just my loss.
Anyway, Stephen Curry will sit this one out. It’ll be his ninth-straight missed game after spraining his historically-troubling ankle earlier this month. Steve Kerr says he’s making great progress but that it makes no sense to rush him back for the Christmas matchup. He’s right about that.
Curry was playing like a guy who could have won his third MVP this season. It will be tough to win it now, even if he does end up playing 70 games. The field is that tough these days. Golden State has been rolling right along without him though. The Warriors lost for the first time without Curry on Friday night. They scored a season-low 81 points, which happens exactly oncer a season. Evidently, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is or where the game is played because this season’s dud came at home against the Nuggets, which is the spot you put the Warriors down for 140. All that game really means going forward is that something like it won’t happen again on Christmas Day.
Cleveland’s offense has been spinning lately, all season actually. The Cavs have failed to hit 100 just twice all season and both of those games were played in October. Their opponent just about always hits triple-digits, too, though. The Cavs had given up 100 in every game up until a month ago. Since, they’ve gone on a sort of defensive stand, holding the opponent under 100 in eight of their last 17 games.
The Cavaliers’ additions between last year’s Finals and now were directly linked to matching up with the Warriors. Jae Crowder and Jeff Green are two capable bodies to throw at last season’s NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. Dwyane Wade has been the backup orchestrator when LeBron rests. Of the three, I think Crowder actually has the most value against the Warriors, head-to-head. He played a big role in the Celtics’ success against them last season.
The Warriors, meanwhile, just grew with compounded interest; it feels like the machine is just building on itself. Nick Young has proven to be a savvy pickup and Jordan Bell has been a perfect pick at the end of the first round. He had his first 20-10 game earlier this week. If the Warriors are to cover this one, it will be because of the role players. And on their home court, I like their chances to play above their heads over Cleveland’s secondaries.
Free Pick: Golden State -4.5