The reason LeBron James didn’t even travel to Memphis for Cleveland’s game against the Grizzlies on Wednesday has a little to do with rest and a lot to do with the team the Knicks meet on Thursday in Oakland.
LeBron is always thinking big picture. (He’s certainly not taking into consideration those in Memphis who specifically purchased tickets for LeBron’s one and only visit to the Grind House.) James has appeared in the last six NBA Finals and the Cavs are favored to return this June. Their likely opponent is the Warriors, a team that is actually better than the team that won 73 games a year ago.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant are all expected to play in Thursday’s nationally televised game. Steve Kerr isn’t doing the Knicks any favors.
And with Derrick Rose’s status uncertain, the task of beating the NBA’s best team over the past two seasons on their home floor becomes all the more daunting. Not impossible, but highly improbable.
The Warriors haven’t been flawless this season; they were embarrassed by San Antonio in the season opener for both teams. One year after starting the season with 24 consecutive wins, the Warriors have lost four games. They aren’t chasing the record for regular season wins. They’re merely chasing LeBron.
At 22-4, Golden State owns the NBA’s best record despite playing four more road games than at home. By comparison, the 18-5 Cavs have played just nine road games prior to Wednesday.
And for anyone who foolishly thought that addition of Durant wouldn’t make the Warriors better, guess again. Durant may be a villain to small market teams everywhere, but his presence in the lineup makes an already potent offensive team nearly unstoppable.
The Warriors are averaging a league-best 117.8 points per game. Their average margin of victory is 11.7 points. The only teams close to Golden State are the Clippers and Raptors, who are beating teams by an average of 8.9 points.
Durant, Curry and Thompson are all averaging more than 20 points per game, which includes Thompson detonating for 60 points in 29 minutes against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 5. He could have gone for 70 and maybe 80, but Thompson sat the entire fourth quarter. The Warriors, you see, also think big picture.
Carmelo Anthony will likely be challenged by Draymond Green on Thursday night.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
Beware of getting into a shootout with the Warriors, who have also shown a knack for winning games with defense. Green is already putting himself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. In Tuesday’s win at New Orleans, Green sealed the victory with a late steal on Anthony Davis. He finished with a triple-double, the 15th of his career. FYI: the Warriors are undefeated in those games.
“He’s one-on-one against anybody, I’ll take Draymond any day,” Kerr said. “He’s a nasty defender.”
“He’s helping us win in those key moments,” Curry said of Green. “He loves a challenge, and he obviously steps up when it matters most. He knows exactly how he can impact a game on that end of the floor.”
Green will find himself matched up against Carmelo Anthony on Thursday while Durant, who had a late block on Davis, will likely draw Kristaps Porzingis, whom Durant called the “unicorn” last season. Porzingis has a similar body type as Durant and is evolving into a spectacular one-on-one player in just his second season.
Durant, however, is in a different class. While Russell Westbrook, James Harden and, of course, LeBron are always mentioned as MVP candidates, Durant is building an impressive resume in his first season in the Bay Area. He leads the Warriors in scoring (25.9); he’s second in rebounds (8.2) and third in assists (4.6). Sharing the ball is a Warriors staple; they totaled 30 assists with only 12 turnovers against New Orleans.
Durant is on pace to average a career low for minutes played, which is one reason why he made the controversial move from the contending Thunder to the mighty Warriors. Surrounded by a star-studded roster, Durant doesn’t have to shoulder the load every night, which will preserve his body for the postseason and prolong his career.
It’s similar to the program LeBron is on. The one difference is that LeBron didn’t play on Wednesday. Durant is expected to be in uniform on Thursday. As will Curry, Thompson and Green.
And that’s bad news for the Knicks.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News