Oakland, CA – (AP) – A position-by-position look at the matchups in the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers.
CENTER: Zaza Pachulia vs. Tristan Thompson. Pachulia is back and ready to go after missing two games in the Western Conference finals with a heel injury. He may not be out there long if the Warriors decide they need more mobility against Thompson, who is nearly averaging a double-double and shooting 60 percent while creating plenty of extra possessions with his offensive rebounding for the Cavaliers. Edge: Cavaliers.
POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green vs. Kevin Love. Green wanted the matchup with the Cavaliers after Golden State fell short last year despite his brilliant Game 7, and now here it comes. On top of his versatility and defense that is so important to Golden State, he’s shooting 47 percent from 3-point range in the postseason, tops on a team that has some of the best perimeter shooters in the world. Love broke out in a big way in the Eastern Conference finals after opening the playoffs with two quiet rounds, averaging 22.6 points and 12.4 rebounds against Boston. Edge: Warriors.
SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Durant has been terrific in his first postseason with the Warriors, averaging 25.2 points on 55.6 percent shooting. James has been even better, putting up 32.5 points on nearly 57 percent shooting, and adding 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. James won his first NBA title five years ago at Durant’s expense, and now Durant tries to get his first playing against James. Edge: Cavaliers.
SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson vs. J.R. Smith. Thompson’s shot has been off in the postseason, hitting just about 38 percent from the field, but his defense is probably more important than his offense now anyway as the usual primary defender against Kyrie Irving. Smith has had a quiet postseason, playing more than 30 minutes and taking more than eight shots just once in the Eastern Conference finals. Edge: Warriors.
POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving. With his big performance in Game 5 that helped start Cleveland’s comeback, his 3-pointer in Game 7 and then his go-ahead basket in their Christmas Day matchup, Irving has repeatedly hurt the Warriors. Now he comes into this series off a sizzling conference finals, shooting 62 percent against Boston. Curry is averaging 28.6 points in the playoffs and looking like a different player now than heading into last year’s NBA Finals after a knee injury earlier in the postseason. Edge: Warriors.
RESERVES: Andre Iguodala, Shawn Livingston, JaVale McGee, Ian Clark, David West, and Patrick McCaw vs. Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Richard Jefferson. Iguodala has shot the ball poorly in the postseason but the 2015 NBA Finals MVP will be on the floor plenty anyway because of his other contributions. Meanwhile, McGee (74 percent), Livingston (61), West (57) and Clark (52) have shot it great. Frye and Korver had their minutes slashed in the last round but the Cavaliers figure to need their 3-point shooting now against the tougher Golden State defense. Advantage: Warriors.
COACHES: Steve Kerr or Mike Brown vs. Tyronn Lue. Kerr is still trying to determine if his back is healthy enough to return to the bench. If not, Brown, who replaced him midway through the first round, faces the team he led to the 2007 NBA Finals. Lue tries to build on the terrific start to his coaching career by becoming just the second NBA coach to win titles in his first two seasons. Edge: Even.
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