1. Tristan Thompson has been inconsistent on defense this season. How will he fare against Golden State’s David Lee?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid Co-EIC: Lee is a talented player down low and, despite some inconsistent play so far this season, will be a test for Thompson. When you look at who Thompson has defended well this season (Blake Griffin, for example) they are players who do their best work around the basket. He struggles at times in space, when power forwards with a consistent jump shot have success creating space and shooting from the mid-range. Lee doesn’t have the most consistent jump shot, which should help Thompson. Lee will get his, as he has solid post moves and is quick, but Thompson should be able to do a good job of containing Lee.
Zak Kolesar, Right Down Euclid Co-EIC: I think Lee has created motivation within himself over the past couple weeks after all the negative talks of his All-Star selection earning him a major contract deal through 2016. His defense has always been suspect, but lately the effort put forth by the double-double machine of last season has resurfaced. Lee’s resurgence and a quickened pace in his step has helped Golden State soar five games over .500, winning their last four matches as well. Because of this momentum, I think Lee will have a monster game against Thompson, especially with TT’s struggles defending the rim
Eric He, Blue Man Hoop EIC: Compared to his All-Star campaign last season, David Lee has been fairly inconsistent this season. Recently, he has begun to improve and get back to form, but earlier in the year he was struggling on offense, which is a concern because that’s the only reason why he’s on the court. His midrange game has been non-existent thus far, so Thompson and the Cavs should dare him to shoot jumpers instead of attack the rim.
2. How does the absence of Andrew Bynum affect the Cavaliers on both ends?
CM: For the Cavaliers, this actually might be a good thing. Bynum seemed to dictate too much of the Cavaliers offense and pace when he was on the floor, especially when you consider that Bynum is only Cavalier not able to get out and run the floor. Also, considering his lack of mobility, Bynum clogged up the middle. Overall, his absence helps the Cavaliers spacing. This is also, oddly, good for the Warriors in a way. They’ll be getting a Cavaliers team adjusting to no Bynum and one without a consistent post scoring threat, as Andrew Bogut is more than capable of containing Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao. Who gets more out of their advantage will be an interesting story to watch.
ZK: I think this is a change that will affect the Cavaliers in a very positive way. Anderson Varejao will receive more minutes as the starting center, and he’s been the definition of hard work and hustle these past few years for the Cavaliers. When he’s healthy, Andy is an offensive rebound-swallowing machine, and unlike Bynum, he’ll actually run in transition and give effort on fast breaks. Bynum was slow as molasses whenever he was on the court this season, so the players usually surrounding Bynum in the starting lineup will have less pressure on having to worry about Bynum’s assignments and be able to key in on the sharpshooters that Golden State boasts. Tyler Zeller will consume Andy’s bench minutes, which also benefits the Cavaliers’ offense. This change, however, is coming at a bad time, as the Warriors are currently riding a four-game winning streak.
EH: The absence of Bynum will mean that the Warriors won’t have to deal with a formidable low-post presence. Instead, they’ll see Anderson Varejao play the majority of the minutes at center. Varejao is more defensive-minded, and although he has nice touch around the rim, he doesn’t have the arsenal of post moves that Bynum has. Perhaps this won’t have much of an affect on the Warriors anyway. Bynum was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team,” so maybe an un-inspired Bynum may have even made things a little easier on the Warriors. Instead, the Dubs will have to contain Varejao and his endless supply of energy.
3. Who is primed to score more against the Cavaliers defense: Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson?
CM: I expect both to score big, but Curry is especially primed to light the Cavaliers up. He’s improved on defense, but Kyrie Irving is by no means capable of keeping Curry contained. If the Warriors run pick & rolls with Curry, Irving is going to get dusted time and time again. I can’t see Irving limiting Curry’s open looks on the wing either. You can rinse and repeat that answer for when Jarrett Jack plays as well, which all but guarantees Curry is going to go off against he Cavaliers. As for Thompson, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles (with just a hint of Matthew Dellavedova) can do a solid job defending Thompson and limit the number of points he’ll get.
ZK: Stephen Curry, but Kyrie Irving will still match the star point guard shot for shot. Kyrie always plays up to premier floor general matchups, and I don’t expect this one to be any different. Although Irving has been on the wrong end of these matchups for the most part–which is why I’m picking Curry–he has been able to keep the Cavaliers competitive as of late in games with opponents sporting premier 1s in their starting lineup. Also, I think Dion Waiters has played with a chip on his shoulder ever since trade rumors starting circling around the Interwebs. He’s more prone to shutdown Thompson because of this fighter mentality, and we all know how porous Kyrie’s defense has been–so Curry will definitely be getting his Sunday evening.
EH: Stephen Curry, simply because he is a more proven, consistent scorer and shooter than Klay Thompson. Thompson is the epitome of inconsistency: one night he will drain seven three-pointers and score 30 points, and the next game he will shoot 2-of-15 with 8 points. Curry is having the best season of his career, even topping his coming-out party a year ago. His three-point shooting percentage is down, but he is finding other ways to score and distribute to teammates because of all the attention drawn towards him. Curry is more than capable of draining shots in a flurry, and almost always dazzles the crowd with a few long-range shots a game. While Thompson is a superb shooter who can also catch fire, he is nowhere as consistent and reliable as Curry.