Capsule preview of the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals

A capsule look at the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, which begin Thursday night (with playoff stats):

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (67-15, 12-3) vs. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (53-29, 12-2).

Starters: Warriors - C Andrew Bogut (5.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg), F Draymond Green (14.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg), F Harrison Barnes (11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), G Klay Thompson (19.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg), G Stephen Curry (29.2 ppg, 6.4 apg). Cavaliers - C Timofey Mozgov (9.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg), F Tristan Thompson (9.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg), F LeBron James (27.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 8.3 apg), G Iman Shumpert (10.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg), G Kyrie Irving (18.7 ppg, 3.7 apg). Key reserves: Warriors - G Andre Iguodala (8.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg), F G Shaun Livingston (5.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg), C Festus Ezeli (3.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg), G Leandro Barbosa (4.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg), F David Lee (2.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg). Cavaliers - G J.R. Smith (13.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg), G Matthew Dellavedova (7.0 ppg, 2.6 apg), G James Jones (4.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg).

Season series: Tied, 1-1. The Warriors beat a Cavaliers team in transition Jan. 9, a 112-94 victory in which Smith scored 27 points in his first start with Cleveland and Mozgov made his Cavs debut. James sat out that game, then scored a season-high 42 points on 15-of-25 shooting and added 11 rebounds in a 110-99 home victory Feb. 26. Curry averaged 20.5 points and 8.0 assists.

Story line: Curry was this season's MVP, James won it four times, and one of them will lead a team to an unfamiliar spot on top of the NBA. The Warriors haven't won a title since 1975 and the Cavaliers never have, with James trying to end his city's championship drought in his fifth straight finals appearance, and first since returning from Miami last summer.

Key matchup I: Curry vs. Irving. They started together in the backcourt for the gold medal-winning U.S. in last summer's Basketball World Cup, then went on to have their best NBA seasons. But while Curry has followed that with a superb postseason, Irving has been battling foot and knee injuries that forced him to sit out two games in the Eastern Conference finals. Dellavedova has stepped up in his absence, but the Cavs probably need their All-Star now.

Key matchup II: Barnes, Green, Iguodala and anyone else vs. James. James nearly averaged a triple-double in the conference finals against an Atlanta team that was limited in its options against him. But the Warriors are loaded with depth and can use smaller players against him on the perimeter or the stronger Green, the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. If they can force James to beat them from the outside, he'll probably have to shoot better than his current 17.6 percent from 3-point range in this postseason to do it.

X-factor: Smith. When he gets hot, he can drop 3-pointers as fast as Curry - they share this year's postseason high with eight in a game. But the volatile sixth man who was suspended two games earlier in the postseason for throwing an elbow will have to keep his emotions in check on the most pressure-packed stage there is.

Prediction: Warriors in 6.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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