Programming note: Watch "Warriors NBA Finals Central" today at 4 p.m. on CSN Bay Area, and immediately after the final horn of Game 4. Both shows will be streamed live right here.
Even though they haven’t led after any quarter of any of the first three games of the NBA Finals, the Warriors remain a confident bunch as they approach Game 4 Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland.
MVP Stephen Curry showed clear signs of recovery late in Game 3, and the Warriors typically feed of his energy and production.
But the Cavaliers have been the tougher and more rugged team thus far, following the lead of LeBron James, who is accustomed to this rarified air, appearing in his sixth NBA Finals, including the last five in a row.
It’s a pretty simple formula for the Warriors. If they match Cleveland’s intensity, their superior overall talent should be the deciding factor.
Cavaliers by 1 (moved on Thursday morning to Warriors by 3)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Harrison Barnes et al vs. LeBron James: James is the engine that makes the Cavs go. The Warriors have been conservative in their defense, which has allowed him to milk the clock. It might be a good idea to attack him, forcing him to give up the ball. That would speed up the game and force someone else to make shots.
Stephen Curry vs. Matthew Dellavedova: The MVP has been harassed by an Instant Folk Hero, as Delly is the poster child for what James calls “the Grit Squad.” Curry can get gritty, too, and it’s time he does. He’s overdue for a game with 10 or more assists; he’s only had one such game through 18 in the postseason.
Draymond Green vs. Tristan Thompson: Green’s shooting, so critical to the team’s ability to maximize its offense, has not taken a sharp decline: 24.4 percent (11 of 45) since Game 4 at Houston. His back is aching, but the Warriors say he’ll play. If he’s not able to produce, look to see more of David Lee or Marreese Speights.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1-Shift into overdrive: The Warriors are best when they attack on defense, setting up a devastating transition game. They must be more aggressive. Speed kills.
2-Protect the ball: With all three games going down to the final horn, treat every possession as if it might be the one that decides the game – because it might be.
3-Pass, pass, pass: The Cavs are short-handed, so exhaust them on defense by moving the ball multiple times on every halfcourt possession. They’ll crack.
“I’ve just got to be at my best. Do the little things that will help us, that will make a difference in the game. Shoot the shots that I normally shoot, try to make the plays that I normally make and take it to another level. I’ve just got to be at my best tonight for 48 minutes, whatever that takes.” – Curry at shootaround Thursday morning
Warriors: Though F Draymond Green is bothered by back spasms, he is not listed on the report.
Cavaliers: Though G Iman Shumpert (shoulder) and G Matthew Dellavedova (dehydration) both needed medical attention after Game 3, neither is listed on the report. G Kyrie Irving (left knee surgery), F Kevin Love (dislocated left shoulder) and C/F Anderson Varejao (ruptured left Achilles tendon) are listed as out.
The Cavaliers hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the first postseason meeting between the teams. They split two games in the regular season, the Warriors posting a 112-94 win at Oracle Arena on Jan. 9 and the Cavs taking a 110-99 victory at Quicken Loans Arena on Feb. 26.