Two teams with serious lineup uncertainties go head to head Friday night when the Golden State Warriors visit the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Warriors are coming off a 121-118 overtime loss at Boston on Thursday night and now must endure the second half of a back-to-back at the end of an eight-day, five-game trip.
Golden State, one of the NBA’s losingest teams on the road at 5-18, recorded a 127-118 win at Washington on the second day of a back-to-back on Monday, but they did so by playing all of their regulars except Klay Thompson.
In the second game of five previous road back-to-backs this season, games they lost by a total of 104 points while resting Thompson, the Warriors twice also held out Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, once held out just Curry and Wiggins, and once held out only Wiggins.
Giving any or all of them Friday off would mean two days of rest before Golden State opens a tough three-game homestand on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr certainly went all out in an effort to complete a season series sweep of the Celtics, burning Curry and Jordan Poole for 43 minutes each, Wiggins for 40, Green for 37 and Thompson for 36.
Golden State likewise will be attempting to sweep the Cavaliers, having already pulled out a 106-101 win in San Francisco in November. Curry had 15 of his 40 points during a fourth-quarter rally in that one.
While the Warriors might go for the sweep without several starters, Kerr indicated reinforcements could be on the way as Jonathan Kuminga (sprained right foot) and JaMychal Green (right leg infection) scrimmaged on Wednesday’s day off and stamped themselves close to returning from long layoffs.
“I think there’s a good chance they’ll play (Friday),” Kerr said in Boston, “but we won’t make that determination until (Friday).”
Donovan Mitchell is Cleveland’s big question mark. He had 29 points in the loss at Golden State, but he’s questionable for the rematch due to a strained left groin.
The injury occurred Monday in the Cavaliers’ 113-103 home win over the New Orleans Pelicans, forcing him to miss Cleveland’s 115-114 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
The Cavaliers used a balanced attack to give themselves a chance against the Grizzlies, with all five starters scoring at least 14 points. Darius Garland led the way with 24 points, and he added 14 assists.
Cleveland also got seven points, four rebounds and three assists from Ricky Rubio in just 12 minutes. It was his fourth game following nearly a 13-month absence due to knee surgery.
One player who has taken advantage of Mitchell’s two most recent absences — the star guard was rested on Jan. 6 at Denver — was Caris LeVert, who had just 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting with Mitchell in the lineup in the earlier game at Golden State.
LeVert went for 22 points against the Nuggets, then had 23 on Wednesday against the Grizzlies, making 17 of 32 shots in the two games. He also found time for a combined eight rebounds and nine assists.
“This is who we thought Caris was,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We know he is a capable scorer, but he’s also a playmaker. I think he’s starting to find some comfort and find a rhythm.”
–Field Level Media