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Thompson Returns as Warriors Welcome Cavaliers

All-Star Guard Hasn't Played Since 2019 Finals

The Golden State Warriors get a boost to their lineup on Sunday night when All-Star guard Klay Thompson makes his season debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The opening tip of the game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET at Chase Center in San Francisco.

Cleveland comes into this contest having won two of its last three, including a road victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. The Cavaliers are 22-17 and in third place in the Central Division, trailing the second-place Milwaukee Bucks by 2½ games and the first-place Chicago Bulls by 5½ games.

Kevin Love defends Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Picks
Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP

The Warriors have dropped two in a row entering this contest, including a road loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night. Golden State is 29-9 and in second place in the Pacific Division, a half-game behind the first-place Phoenix Suns.

If you want to bet online on this contest, the NBA lines have put the Warriors as 8½-point favorites, with the over/under set at 217 points. If you’re betting on the moneyline, you can get Golden State at -360 and Cleveland at +300.

On The Way Up

Cleveland is coming off its first win in Portland since 2013, the team’s 22nd win, which matches last season’s win total. The Cavaliers are in the playoff hunt, sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but Sunday will be the second of a six-game road swing against Western Conference foes that could either greatly hurt or hinder their place in those standings.

If the Cavaliers are going to be competitive in this one, it’s going to be guard Darius Garland having a big game. The 21-year-old has become the leader of the team with Collin Sexton out for the season with a meniscus tear. Garland is averaging 19.9 points and 7.3 assists per game, though he may become more of a scorer with the acquisition of veteran point guard Rajon Rondo.

Center Jarrett Allen has been a solid presence in the paint, averaging 17.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He and rookie Evan Mobley (14.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks) are one of the better young frontcourt combos in the league.

The Cavaliers also have the veteran presence of forward Kevin Love, who is playing almost exclusively off the bench now. Love is averaging 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest and helping steer the young club towards a return to the postseason.

Finally Back

It was the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors when we last saw Thompson on the floor for Golden State, as he suffered a torn ACL in that series and a torn Achilles’ tendon prior to the 2020-21 campaign. His return has been much anticipated, and he will move right into the starting lineup upon his return.

“(Friday) night I couldn’t sleep. I literally had like electrical currents just flowing through my body like I’m sitting on a wire, and when we lined up for the jump ball (in practice Saturday) and I’m just sitting there looking at him. Wow, I have not lined up next to this man in two and a half years,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said of Thompson’s return

Thompson has been seen in practices shooting the lights out, and his presence should open some opportunities up for other Warriors players, including Stephen Curry, the league’s sixth-leading scorer at 26.8 points per game.

Curry sat out the loss to New Orleans on Friday night with a quadriceps injury but is expected to be on the court for the return of his backcourt mate. Curry is shooting just 38.4% from the floor over the last seven games but will likely be energized to have Thompson playing again.

Green will also be back for this one after he missed the New Orleans loss with a hip injury. Green is eighth in the NBA in assists per game with 7.6 while also averaging 8.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals as the Warriors’ emotional leader on both ends of the floor.

It will be interesting to see the Golden State offense with Thompson back aboard now that forward Andrew Wiggins has seen his scoring go up. Wiggins is averaging 19.1 points per game this season and will still need to get his shots in this offense.

Warriors Revival

With Thompson coming back, Curry and Green back in the lineup, and Golden State coming off two straight losses, there might not be a worse time for Cleveland to be visiting. The Cavaliers will make it tough for a while, but it’s hard to see Golden State not running away with this one at the end.

When making your NBA picks, take Golden State to win and cover at home.

Pick: Golden State Warriors -8½

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