Known for playing an up-tempo brand of basketball, the rested Warriors look to win three consecutive games for the first time this season Monday night when they host a Cavaliers team playing its second game in back-to-back nights.
After a poor start to the season, Golden State (11-24) has been more competitive lately. The Warriors have won four of seven - including victories over Phoenix and Boston - after losing 21 of their first 28.
One of those early losses was a 114-108 setback in Cleveland on Nov. 17, as James finished with 31 points and a season high-tying 12 assists. That was the Warriors’ third straight loss to the Cavaliers and their sixth in the teams’ seven meetings since the 2006-07 season.
Golden State has also lost its last three games against Cleveland at Oracle Arena. James made a 19-footer to barely beat the final buzzer in the Cavaliers’ 106-105 win Jan. 23, their last meeting there.
Despite its recent struggles in the series, Golden State might hold a slight advantage this time.
The Warriors, who like to push the ball up the court, should be well rested having been off since a 108-101 win over Sacramento on Friday, the opener of a season-high seven-game homestand.
Cleveland, meanwhile, might be tired following Sunday night’s 106-94 win over Portland, the second game of a season-long five-game trip against Western Conference opponents. James played a season-high 45 minutes against the Trail Blazers and finished with 41 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while shooting 13 of 19. The five-time All-Star had 20 points on 8 of 8 shooting in the first quarter.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” he said. “You have to be that way in order to get road wins, so that was my whole mindset going into tonight.”
Cleveland’s defense struggled down the stretch Sunday, allowing Portland to rally from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to tie the score at 89 with 6:17 remaining in the fourth.
The Cavaliers now have to try and slow down a high-powered Golden State offense that averages 107.3 points, second-most in the NBA.
The leader of that offense, Monta Ellis(notes), is coming off another sensational game. He had 39 points on 15 of 29 shooting Friday for Golden State, which came back from 18 points down in the third quarter and outscored the Kings 32-15 in the final period.
“The force was with us and it was one of Monta Ellis’ best performances,” coach Don Nelson said. “It just wasn’t his scoring but he willed and helped our team win. He just kept focused and kept trucking like the Energizer bunny.”
Ellis has scored at least 30 points in eight of Golden State’s last 11 games and is second in the league with 41.7 minutes per game.
“He doesn’t get tired,” reserve Anthony Morrow(notes) said. “We’re a pretty hard-working team with a lot of young guys, so to see the captain do that, it just makes you want to come out that much harder. I haven’t seen anything like that since Allen Iverson(notes). He’s the new version of AI.”