When the Cleveland Cavaliers take the floor in Oakland, California against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, the game will feel like much more than just another game in an 82-game regular season.
After battling injuries for much of this season, the Cavaliers have won six consecutive games and currently hold a 19-7 record on the season. Most importantly the Cavaliers finally have their entire roster active and ready to play for the first time in over eight months.
The Warriors are coming into the matchup with the Cavaliers on Christmas Day red hot with a 27-1 record and a high-volume attack on both ends of the floor. Cleveland will also have to battle a tough Golden State home crowd that have not seen the Warriors lose a regular season home game in nearly a year.
For much of the season while the Cavaliers were in the process of getting back to full strength, Kevin Love rose his level of play to a level that many were expecting to see from the All-star power forward.
Love is averaging 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, which are Love’s best numbers since being apart of the Cavaliers.
Even though members of the Cavaliers team and front office are not saying out loud to members of the media, this game is meaningful to everyone associated with the Cavaliers organization.
Iman Shumpert told members of the media on Wednesday regarding the matchup against Golden State, “We’ve been waiting for this.” Shumpert did say that he was still “salty” from the result of the NBA Finals last year but he is going to treat Friday’s game just like any other regular season game.
A few Cavalier players, including Kyrie Irving have said the NBA Finals would have turned out differently if the wine and gold were healthy and the game on Christmas is the time to prove so for the Cavaliers. This game will essentially be a benchmark for the Cavaliers to see where they stand among the elite teams in the NBA.
Kevin Love said after the game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, “We get to see where we stack up against the best team,” Love said.
Cleveland will also have to face the reigning most valuable player Stephen Curry, who has started the 2015-16 season on a torrid pace. Curry is averaging 31.8 points per game and shooting over 45 percent from beyond the three-point line through 28 games.
Golden State remained healthy and intact throughout the playoffs last season and this year is no different. Other than an ankle injury to Harrison Barnes that has kept him sidelined nearly a month, the Warriors have remained intact on the floor throughout the season.
Fresh off of a new contract in the offseason, Draymond Green has been an integral part of the Warriors success. The fourth-year forward is averaging 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists this year.
Green is just one of the many weapons the Warriors can turn to on any given night to get a win, which is a luxury to have in the NBA today.
LeBron James, who certainly does not forget the NBA Finals lost last June knows the importance of this game but also is aware this is only one game in what hopes to be a long season for the Cavaliers.
“The memories will come back as soon as we walk into the building, but also understand that it’s one of 82, and I’m not going to put everything into this game.” James said
Regardless of what the Cavaliers are saying or choosing not, their will be a different feeling for all involved when game time rolls around at 5 p.m. With the millions tuned in across the world, arguably the two best teams in the NBA will faceoff in what could be an NBA Finals preview come June.
When asked about the matchup with Golden State on Friday, James said, “We want to play well, going against a great caliber team, the best team in our league right now, but it’s not like the season ends if we lose or if we win, or whatever the case may be.”