Dribbles: LeBron says matchup with Spurs ‘should be a good one’
Tipoff: AT&T Center, San Antonio, 9:30 p.m. ET.
Records: Cavaliers 41-25; Spurs 40-23.
TV: TNT. Radio: WTAM 1100, 100.7 WMMS, 87.7 FM La Mega, AM 1590 WAKR (Akron)
Cavaliers: C Timofey Mozgov; PF Kevin Love; SF LeBron James; SG J.R. Smith; PG Kyrie Irving.
Spurs: C Tiago Splitter; PF Tim Duncan; SF Kawhi Leonard; SG Danny Green; PG Tony Parker.
Cavaliers: SF Shawn Marion (hip) doubtful; C Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out.
Spurs: PF Tim Duncan (elbow) probable; SG Manu Ginobili (sick) questionable.
1. The Cavaliers are an NBA-best 22-5 since Jan. 15. The defending champion Spurs have won six in a row. During that stretch, the Spurs are averaging 112.2 points per game. "It should be a good one," LeBron James said.
2. Spurs supersub Manu Ginobili is sick and missed Tuesday’s 117-107 win over the Raptors. The Spurs did not practice Wednesday, and Ginobili was not at shootaround. He is listed as a game-time decision, but it sounds as if Ginobili will indeed play.
3. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan hyperextended his left elbow in a fourth-quarter collision with Tiago Splitter and Raptors’ big man Amir Johnson. It happened in the final minute of the game. Duncan put up shots at shootaround with a wrap on his elbow, but the injury does not appear serious. As of Thursday afternoon, Duncan was expected to play vs. the Cavs.
4. LeBron has struggled against the Spurs, both as a member of the Cavs and the Heat. The Cavs have lost 10 straight in the series, dating back to when LeBron was with the team the first time.
5. The biggest issue for LeBron in recent years has been the defense, strength and skills of Kawhi Leonard. Not too many players match up with LeBron athletically, but Leonard is right there. "He’s very sound," James said. "I think what also helps him is the anchors that he has behind him in Timmy (Duncan), (Tiago) Splitter and the rest of those guys."
6. While the Spurs have been together forever, the Cavs are relatively new unit with only four players back from last season. One of those players, Anderson Varejao, is out for the season. That leaves Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova as returnees. Those three, along with Kevin Love, have never experienced the playoffs. The core of the Spurs, meanwhile, has won four titles. Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich own five.
7. LeBron on the Spurs: "They’re going to have a high motor and share the ball. It’s a team that has so much chemistry because they’ve spent so much time together and they have championship DNA."
8. The Cavs will have to continue to look for Love and Timofey Mozgov and try to establish some scoring underneath. It worked very well in Tuesday’s 127-94 rout in Dallas. They also pushed the ball and ran the break, mostly behind Kyrie Irving. James committed just two turnovers vs. the Mavericks, and it’s because he didn’t need to handle the ball as much.
9. This will be a big test for both teams. The Spurs own the experience and intelligence and the Cavs are younger and more athletic. They also now have their own Danny Green in J.R. Smith, who has been an explosive spot-up shooter and willing defender since arriving to the Cavs in a January trade.
10. And while Iman Shumpert doesn’t have the credentials of Ginobili, Shumpert has been Ginobili-like for the Cavs off the bench. Shumpert can score, handle the ball and get after it on D. He went for seven points, six assists and a whopping six steals against the Mavs. "I don’t know how many points he scored and I don’t care," Cavs coach David Blatt said of Shumpert. "He made an impact on the game."
11. After Thursday night, the Cavs are off until Sunday (at Orlando). So don’t be surprised if most of the starters play big minutes against the Spurs. That is, assuming the game is close.
12. Danny Green on the Cavs: "They are playing at a high level. They’ve got some great guys and great players. And they’re playing well together. They’re starting to mesh at a key time. It’s going to be a good matchup."