NBA: Warriors aim to 'send message' against slumping Cavs by winning fourth straight clash

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr speaking with forward Kevin Durant during the NBA match against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan 13, 2018.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr speaking with forward Kevin Durant during the NBA match against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan 13, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The Golden State Warriors aim to heap more misery on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, when they meet in a marquee NBA holiday match-up.

The rematch of the last three National Basketball Association Finals highlights the league's Martin Luther King Jr Day slate.

"We just want to kick each other's ass," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "There's no sort of love lost. That's how it should be. We should be trying to beat each other."

Golden State star Stephen Curry echoed that sentiment.

"Obviously, with our history with Cleveland, you want to get a win," he said. "You want to send a message."

The Warriors are 16-9 against the Cavs in this rivalry dating to the 2015 Finals. Golden State won the title that year, fell to the Cavs the following season and regained the summit in 2017.

"Lakers-Boston was the dominant rivalry. Our rivalry with Cleveland is the analogy of the modern NBA," Kerr said.

"It's the same thing. You got superstars all over the floor. You've had three Finals meetings. You have so many games and so many people watching. It's definitely a special feeling in the building when both teams are there."

But Cleveland's recent form does not suggest they will be turning the tables in the increasingly lopsided rivalry.

The Cavaliers have lost three straight, seven of their last nine and eight of their last 11. They wasted a 22-point lead in a loss to Indiana on Friday.

They have played Golden State on the last two Martin Luther King Jr holidays and lost those games by a combined 69 points.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue admitted his players need to be up for the challenge.

"If not, it'll be embarrassing," he said.

This will be the Warriors' first game against a Cavs line-up with Isaiah Thomas, acquired by Cleveland before the season but sidelined by injury, playing point guard.

"It's going to be fun," Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson said. "I want to see what they're like at full strength."

The Warriors can afford to be confident. They have won seven of eight games in January, including the first two games of their current five-game road trip, and lead the league with a record of 35-9.

James said the Cavs need to focus not on their recent disappointing results but on the Warriors.

"You could win a hundred straight games and face the Warriors and there are still challenges," he said.