Warriors-Cavaliers as NBA Finals preview? Don’t rush it

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The No. 1 group in a NBA competence not be a best group on a justice Thursday night. Not that a Golden State Warriors are worried.

They revisit a Cleveland Cavaliers for an 8 p.m. ET showcase diversion on TNT, where a story line is simple: The Cavs (36-22) are a hottest group around, and a Warriors (44-10) have been a story of a season. What happens when a unstoppable force of LeBron James hits a determined intent of a Warriors’ flexible, team-oriented system?

Perhaps an NBA Finals preview, and a constrained (and ratings-heavy) one during that. But let’s not be too quick.

The Warriors are vehement about what lies ahead, a daunting charge that will be a Western Conference playoffs. Thanks to a bolt of injuries, a West standings have turn a mess. The Warriors would face a No. 8 seed Oklahoma City Thunder, winners of 7 in a row, if a unchanging deteriorate finished today. And a seventh-place San Antonio Spurs competence be their usually other option.

“We’re not about perplexing to manipulate a formula of a games to try to find somebody to play in a initial round,” Warriors manager Steve Kerr said. “There aren’t any good options. We only wish to be as good as we can be, and be healthy and personification good during a finish of a season.”

The Eastern Conference, though, is a opposite story. And during a moment, a trail looks elementary for a Cavs.

Cleveland, that spent many of a initial half of a deteriorate flapping between fifth and sixth place in a East, has risen to third with a 17-3 run given mid-January. And other than a No. 1 Atlanta Hawks, who positively can reason their possess and have beaten a Cavs in their past dual matchups, no one seems prepared to get in their way.

The second-place Toronto Raptors are in a three-game movement and competence good get upheld by a finish of a week. The Chicago Bulls, tied with a Cavs in third, are though Derrick Rose and an descent identity. And a Washington Wizards, who were second in a discussion when a Cavs’ run began, are down to fifth and in risk of slipping offer since of a 2-10 record in a past 12 games.

“It is what it is,” Warriors core Andrew Bogut told USA TODAY Sports about a discussion disparity. “Hopefully a NBA will figure something out, though a West right now is brutal. It’s going to be like 3 heavyweight battles only to get to a Finals, and in a East we competence hide one seven-game series. It’s going to be heartless to get to a Finals in a West.”

Still, Thursday’s diversion should offer as a good measuring hang for both teams. The Warriors are 8-2 in their road-heavy past 10 games and will use this test, along with Friday’s during a Raptors, as a feverishness check entering a widen run.

The Cavs, meanwhile, are out to infer they are pretension contenders after all a early-season drama, and they’d like to make adult for Jan. 9’s 112-94 detriment in Oakland.

“They had a lot of opposite issues,” Bogut said. “They had a new manager they had to adjust to. LeBron missed roughly a month. They finished a garland of trades. You knew once they figured it out, they were going to be doing what they’re doing. So it’s no warn there, generally in a East.”

Continuity is essential in starting a deteriorate strong, though by April, everybody will know their purpose on all of a contending teams. The Warriors have stayed pat with their roster, aside from a few injuries healing, that helped them benefit an corner even while bringing in a new coaching staff led by Kerr.

“They’ve finished a good pursuit not unequivocally changing too much,” All-Star ensure Klay Thompson pronounced of a coaches. “They combined a few new things on a descent end. They didn’t unequivocally change a defense. Just guileless us, they knew they’d come into a good situation. All of us fit good in a system.”

The Warriors and second-place Memphis Grizzlies took advantage of their smoothness and other teams’ struggles with it to burst to a tip of a West standings early, and they never let go.

But a Thunder are coming. The Spurs are a Spurs, finally removing healthy even notwithstanding a four-game losing streak. The third-pace Houston Rockets could have Dwight Howard back, and a sixth-place Los Angeles Clippers should lapse Blake Griffin. The Portland Trail Blazers are operative recently acquired Arron Afflalo into a super-sixth male role. And a Dallas Mavericks are operative Amar’e Stoudemire on to their dais to yield interior punch.

The West, in other words, is distant from settled.

“The annals competence not meant a whole lot during a finish of a year,” Kerr said. “You’re only going to have 8 good teams, and 4 of them are going to be out in a initial round. That’s a approach it goes.”



USA TODAY Sports’ Adi Joseph breaks down a latest energy rankings.

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