Monday night’s schedule features a Finals rematch between the Cavaliers and Warriors, and it also represents Cleveland’s best chance yet to show that it’s in Golden State’s class when healthy and at full strength.
A more pessimistic view of the matchup would suggest that if the Cavaliers can’t win tonight, at home, with all of their weapons available, they might never figure out how to beat these Warriors four times in a seven-game series when things matter the most.
On Christmas Day at Oracle Arena, the Warriors beat the Cavaliers for the fourth straight time. But there were reasons for Cleveland to not be too worried about that particular regular-season loss.
Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving was playing in just his third game of the season while working his way back from the fractured kneecap injury he suffered against Golden State in last year’s Finals, and it was only Iman Shumpert’s fifth game back in the lineup after he missed time with a wrist injury. The Warriors, meanwhile, were playing at home and won a low-scoring contest by just six points while the Cavaliers made only five of 30 3-pointers.
Entering this contest, the Cavaliers are red-hot, having won nine of their last 10 games with the only loss coming on the road at the hands of the Spurs. Cleveland lost by just four points to a San Antonio team that has been every bit as good as the Warriors this year and has compiled an incredible home winning streak that is currently at 33 games (and counting) dating back to last season.
The Warriors have dropped two of their last three and were at full strength in their last outing when the Pistons handed them an 18-point loss, which was only their fourth defeat of the season.
Everything is in Cleveland’s favor this time around. If the Cavaliers can’t manage to take down the Warriors now, under this set of circumstances, it may be a crushing blow to the team mentally and one that could impact a potential rematch in the championship round come June.