JR Smith: Warriors Christmas Matchup Holds 'No Weight,' Finals Won't Be Same

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2017

Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) fouls Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Cleveland, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will meet on Christmas for the third straight year. But JR Smith and his Cavs teammates aren't putting much emphasis on the matchup.

"We definitely over the years, especially the first couple years, grew a strong dislike for them, but I think that's just the nature of the game," he said, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. "The matchups and whoever you guard and schemes, that's all going to be totally different by the time we get to the Finals, so it don't really hold no weight."

Center Tristan Thompson agreed.  

"I mean as years go on, we kind of just don't really give a (expletive) about it no more," he noted.

"The first one, the first Christmas game, coming in people were like, 'Oh, let's try to win the game,' but after that it's like, 'Ah, it's just going to be a good basketball game at Christmas time,'" Thompson added.

Kevin Love added that the first time the teams had met on Christmas—in 2015, the year after the Cavaliers and Warriors first met in the NBA Finals—the team had an added incentive to beat the Warriors. Part of that stemmed from the fact that Love and Kyrie Irving had been injured during the 2015 Finals and the Cavs were eager to show what they could do at full strength.

A source added that the 2015 Christmas Day matchup mattered to LeBron James, though James himself told reporters on Thursday that "it's always been just another game."

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"Because one day, two days later you've got to be prepared for another one," he continued. "It's just the way the game is. I think Christmas Day is a big-time day for our league...but at the end of the day, it's one game and you want to see how you can play versus the top team in the league, one of the top teams in the league and that's Golden State. That's always been the narrative of everybody else putting that out there, not us."

Indeed, the Warriors and Cavaliers will have a drastically different look if they meet in the 2018 NBA Finals than they'll have on Monday afternoon, as Smith noted. Steph Curry is unlikely to play as he recovers from a right ankle sprain, while Isaiah Thomas—who has yet to play this season as he returns from a torn labrum—has already been ruled out of the game by the Cavaliers.