VIDEO: GameTime previews the matchup between the Cavs and the Warriors
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the day’s marquee game and a rematch of the 2015 Finals, Cleveland at Golden State (5 p.m. ET, ABC).
Cleveland Cavaliers (19-7)
The stat: The Cavs have been 10.9 points per 100 possessions better in the second half than they’ve been in the first half, the biggest differential in the league.
The Cavs have been somewhat mediocre in the first half, outscoring their opponents by just 23 points over 26 games. (Their Christmas opponent, by contrast, is a plus-215 in the first half.) Cleveland has had the lead at halftime in just 12 of the 26 and has twice trailed the 1-30 Philadelphia 76ers at the half.
They’ve been particularly bad, scoring 86 points per 100 possessions and getting outscored by 10, in the last six minutes of the first quarter. Not coincidentally, that’s the segment of the first half when LeBron James is least likely to be on the floor.
But the Cavs turn things around really quickly out of the locker room, outscoring their opponents by almost 24 points per 100 possessions in the first six minutes of the third quarter. They typically suffer another dip in the last six minutes of the third (when James goes to the bench again), but have been the best fourth quarter team in the league, when they’ve allowed just 93.0 points per 100 possessions.
The return of Kyrie Irving (he’s played the last two games after sitting out the first 24) could change up the Cavs’ by-half numbers. He could help them get out to faster starts and/or keep the offense afloat when James sits down. But it’s also fair to ask if the fourth quarter defense will be as good when he’s on the floor closing games.
More Cavs notes from NBA.com/stats
- James leads the league with 6.6 field goals in the restricted area per game, shooting 69.3 percent, sixth among players who have attempted at least 100 shots there.
- Pace will be a factor on Friday. While the Warriors lead the league in pace, the Cavs rank 28th, averaging almost seven fewer possessions per 48 minutes.
Golden State Warriors (27-1)
The stat: The Warriors have scored 11.0 more points per 100 possessions than the league average, the biggest differential since the league started counting turnovers in 1977.
The champs ranked second in offensive efficiency last season, and they’re the fourth most improved offensive team this year. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have somehow shot better than they did a year ago, and so have Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
Green has also evolved into the league’s best playmaker at the power forward position. He leads the league’s best offense and ranks seventh in the league with 7.1 assists per game. Defenses have no choice but to aggressively defend Curry on pick-and-rolls, and when they do, Green makes them pay on 4-on-3 situations.
The Warriors have the best offense in the first half, in the second half, in home games, in road games, on the second night of back-to-backs (113.9 points scored per 100 possessions) and in games with at least one day of rest (112.8).
Last season’s Warriors were, statistically, the best team since Michael Jordan‘s Bulls. This season’s Warriors have been better.
More Warriors notes from NBA.com/stats
- The Warriors rank first with 21.6 fast break points per game. Cleveland ranks second in allowing just 9.7.
- For the second straight season, Curry (4.8) and Thompson (3.2) rank first and second in 3-pointers per game.
- After averaging 16.3 points in November, Thompson has averaged 26.1 in December.
- Curry leads the league with 50 unassisted 3-pointers, but 67.9 percent of the Warriors’ total baskets have been assisted, the highest rate in the league.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions