Newspaper article International New York Times

In Finals, Overlooked Defense May Be the Key ; Cavaliers-Warriors Series Will Feature a Matchup of 2 Evenly Matched Teams

Newspaper article International New York Times

In Finals, Overlooked Defense May Be the Key ; Cavaliers-Warriors Series Will Feature a Matchup of 2 Evenly Matched Teams

Article excerpt

LeBron James and Stephen Curry are the stars in the N.B.A. finals, but the defense of Draymond Green, Iman Shumpert and others will also be crucial.

With the conference finals having wrapped up quickly, the N.B.A. finds itself in an awkward situation: There will be a record seven days between postseason basketball games. Unable to alter the schedule because of logistics, the N.B.A. will get a taste of what the N.F.L. experiences in the run-up to the Super Bowl, when every angle is analyzed to such a ridiculous extent that most of it begins to feel meaningless.

In particular, people will try to pick apart the two regular- season games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. But no matter how hard you look, you will probably not find much that reveals which team has the advantage.

On Jan. 9, the Cavaliers were in Oakland, Calif., to take on the red-hot Warriors. Cleveland was three games into a six-game winless streak in which LeBron James missed all but the last game because of a self-imposed hiatus to heal a number of lingering injuries. Predictably, Golden State dispatched the Cavaliers quickly, with Stephen Curry logging 23 points and 10 assists while Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 24 points.

The only other meeting came in Cleveland, on Feb. 26. By that time, the Cavaliers' rebuilt roster had jelled, and the team rolled to its 18th win in 20 games as James made a statement with 42 points and 11 rebounds. Curry endured one of his rare off games, scoring just 18 points as a result of an atypical 5-for-17 shooting performance. James and Curry were asked if the game could tip the balance in the race for the Most Valuable Player Award, but each was quick to point out the insignificance of a single game.

Similarly, trying to read too much into each team's winning at home, when each was on a hot streak, would be unwise. Adding to the uncertainty of how this series will play out is the question of how Cleveland can match up against Golden State's defense with Kevin Love out for the season and Kyrie Irving's status unclear. …

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