Warriors, Cavs in Finals rematch — sort of
Two games into a return from a lengthy absence due to a groin injury, Stephen Curry appears to be rounding into form and shaking off some rust.
And it’s just in time for a rematch of the last four NBA Finals. Well, sort of.
The Warriors are headed to Cleveland for the first time since Curry scored 37 points in a 108-85 win in Game 4. However, the version of the Cavaliers they will encounter Wednesday is significantly different since LeBron James is with the Los Angeles Lakers, J.R. Smith is away from the team, Kevin Love is recovering from left foot surgery, Kyle Korver is in Utah and Jeff Green is in Washington.
The Warriors went a pedestrian 5-6 without Curry and split his first two games back. Curry scored 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting in 36 minutes in a nine-point loss at Detroit on Saturday and followed it up with a 30-point showing on 10-of-17 shooting, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range, in Monday’s 128-111 win at Atlanta.
“I think he’s now back in the groove,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He looked great handling the ball.”
Curry produced his seventh 30-point game of the season, and the Warriors are 6-1 when he does so.
Curry’s big game occurred on a night when the Warriors handed out 33 assists. It was the first time since Nov. 8 the Warriors had at least 30 assists, and it led to a 58.5 percent shooting performance.
“We have a great offense where we emphasize ball movement, body movement, making the right play and trying to find a great shot every time down,” Golden State forward Kevin Durant said. “Tonight we saw something working in our movement game.”
Durant scored at least 20 points for the 13th straight game by totaling 28 points and eight assists while Klay Thompson added 27 points for his career-high ninth straight game with at least 20 points. Kevon Looney added a career-high 14 points in his first start at center after the Warriors lost Damion Jones to a pectoral injury.
The Warriors also snapped a six-game road losing streak with Monday’s display of transition defense and ball movement. It also was their sixth win in the last 14 games as they continued to play without Draymond Green, who will miss his 10th straight game with a sprained right toe.
“We’re not where we need to be by any stretch of the imagination,” Kerr said. “We’ve been kind of uneven to this point.”
Cleveland owns one of the league’s worst records at 5-18, but things are going moderately better in the last two weeks since a close loss to the Lakers on Nov. 21. The Cavaliers are 3-4 in their last seven games after escaping Brooklyn with a 99-97 win over the Nets on Monday night in a game they led by 11 with 4:25 remaining.
“The execution on the play was good,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “He just made a fantastic, athletic play. It was a clear out for him and he made a terrific move.”
Cleveland is 5-12 since firing Tyronn Lue on Oct. 28 and replacing him with Drew. The Cavaliers allowed 118.5 points in the first six games and 111.7 in their 2-14 start but are allowing 107.6 in their last six games.
Jordan Clarkson led the Cavaliers with 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds while Tristan Thompson posted his 13th double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Burks added 13 points in 29 minutes, and he played extensively in the fourth quarter with Clarkson while rookie Collin Sexton was limited to three minutes in the final 12 minutes.
“I think Alec complements Jordan,” Drew said. “And I think Jordan complements Alec. There are some good combinations there. We just have to put it all together.”
On Monday, Burks and Clarkson were on the floor for 27 minutes together, and the Cavaliers shot 46 percent and outscored Brooklyn 58-48. In the three games, the duo has been on the floor for 68 minutes, and the Cavaliers have outscored opponents 155-139 while shooting 45.5 percent (56 of 123).
Including last season’s NBA Finals sweep, the Warriors have won the last seven meetings with the Cavaliers.