NBA FINALS Position-by-position match-ups
A position-by-position look at the match-ups in the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers:
CENTER: Andrew Bogut vs. Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov, who could become the first Russian to win an NBA title, made his Cavs debut in a Jan. 9 loss to Golden State, and his acquisition from Denver was one of the catalysts for Cleveland’s turnaround. He provides valuable defense and rebounding, as does Bogut, the former No. 1 overall pick from Australia who has had to tangle with Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard in the last two rounds. Edge: Even.
POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green vs. Tristan Thompson. The versatile Green was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging 14 points and 10.8 rebounds in the postseason, and can be a frequent option to defend LeBron James. But if the Warriors do that they would need to figure out what to do against Thompson, who stepped in when Kevin Love was lost to a shoulder injury and has been a force on the offensive boards while shooting 59 percent. Edge: Warriors.
SMALL FORWARD: Harrison Barnes vs. LeBron James. Four wins from delivering a long-awaited title for his home team, James nearly averaged a triple-double in the conference finals and has stepped up his game with Love out and Kyrie Irving hurting. He’s shooting just 17.6 percent from 3-point range, but he tied his season best with four 3-pointers when he scored a season-high 42 points against the Warriors on Feb. 26. Barnes, one of multiple options the Warriors have to defend James, scored 24 points in the Game 5 clincher against Houston in the West finals. Edge: Cavaliers.
SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson vs. Iman Shumpert. Thompson was diagnosed with a concussion after getting kneed in the head in Game 5 against the Rockets and will have to pass through the NBA’s concussion protocol before the All-Star guard can be cleared to return. Shumpert, who has played well since stepping into the lineup when J.R. Smith was suspended to start the second round, is a solid defender who could get plenty of turns against Stephen Curry. Edge: Warriors.
POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving. Curry has followed his MVP season by averaging 29.2 points in the playoffs while shooting 43.7 percent from 3-point range. He started in the U.S. backcourt at last year’s Basketball World Cup alongside Irving, who was MVP of that tournament and the 2014 All-Star Game. He arrives at the NBA Finals hoping to overcome knee and foot injuries that sidelined him for two games in the conference finals, and if he can, this is an electric matchup. Don’t forget, Irving had the NBA’s two highest-scoring games this season, with 57 and 55 points. Edge: Warriors.
RESERVES: Andre Iguodala, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston vs. J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova and James Jones. The Warriors probably have the deepest and most versatile bench in the league, with a quality backup at nearly every position. Smith and Dellavedova have been big for Cleveland, but the Cavs don’t go much further than that. Advantage: Warriors.
COACHES: Steve Kerr vs. David Blatt. The rookie coaches nearly ended up working together, with Blatt headed to a role as Kerr’s assistant before landing the Cleveland job. A highly successful coach overseas, Blatt has been under scrutiny seemingly from the moment he was hired. It’s been mostly a season-long joy ride for Kerr right into the first matchup of first-year coaches since the very first championship series. Edge: Warriors.