The No. 1 team in the NBA may not be the best team on the court Thursday night. Not that the Golden State Warriors are worried.
They visit the Cleveland Cavaliers for an 8 p.m. ET showcase game on TNT, where the story line is simple: The Cavs (36-22) are the hottest team around, and the Warriors (44-10) have been the story of the season. What happens when the unstoppable force of LeBron James hits the immovable object of the Warriors’ flexible, team-oriented system?
Perhaps an NBA Finals preview, and a compelling (and ratings-heavy) one at that. But let’s not be too quick.
The Warriors are candid about what lies ahead, the daunting task that will be the Western Conference playoffs. Thanks to a glut of injuries, the West standings have become a mess. The Warriors would face the No. 8 seed Oklahoma City Thunder, winners of seven in a row, if the regular season ended today. And the seventh-place San Antonio Spurs might be their only other option.
“We’re not about trying to manipulate the results of our games to try to find somebody to play in the first round,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There aren’t any good options. We just want to be as good as we can be, and be healthy and playing well at the end of the season.”
Still, Thursday’s game should serve as a good measuring stick for both teams. The Warriors are 8-2 in their road-heavy past 10 games and will use this test, along with Friday’s at the Raptors, as a heat check entering the stretch run.
The Cavs, meanwhile, are out to prove they are title contenders after all the early-season drama, and they’d like to make up for Jan. 9’s 112-94 loss in Oakland.
“They had a lot of different issues,” Bogut said. “They had a new coach they had to adjust to. LeBron missed almost a month. They made a bunch of trades. You knew once they figured it out, they were going to be doing what they’re doing. So it’s no surprise there, especially in the East.”
Continuity is crucial in starting a season strong, but by April, everyone will know their role on all of the contending teams. The Warriors have stayed pat with their roster, aside from a few injuries healing, which helped them gain an edge even while bringing in a new coaching staff led by Kerr.
“They’ve done a great job not really changing too much,” All-Star guard Klay Thompson said of the coaches. “They added a few new things on the offensive end. They didn’t really change the defense. Just trusting us, they knew they’d come into a great situation. All of us fit great in the system.”
NBA release 02/26/2015
Warriors vs Cavaliers