Five greatest games of the Warriors-Cavaliers showdowns in NBA Finals
After two hard-fought battles in the 2018 Conference Finals, we are now looking at a fourth straight Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers match-up in the NBA Finals.
In the last four seasons, these two teams have played in some of the most historic games in NBA Finals history. Here are the top five games in the first three Finals match-ups.
5. 2015 Game 2; Cavaliers win 95-93 in OT
Game 2 for LeBron James and company was a huge win at Oracle Arena to bring the series back to Cleveland tied at one apiece. It was the big response the Cavs needed after losing Game 1 in overtime by a score of 108-100. Cavs then-star point guard Kyrie Irving suffered a knee injury in the overtime period that caused him to miss the rest of the Finals, joining teammate Kevin Love, who had been on the shelf since the first round. LeBron responded with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists playing 50 total minutes in the overtime victory.
In the first two games of the 2015 NBA Finals, James played 96 combined minutes. Role players like Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov stepped up in their depleted rotation. Mozgov gave the Cavaliers frontcourt 17 points and 11 rebounds and Dellavedova played great defense on Stephen Curry along with clutch free throws late in the game. After Game 2, the losses of Irving and Love proved to be too much to overcome for the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers did manage to win Game 3 on their home court, giving them a 2-1 series lead. But the Warriors won out to win the title in six games.
4. 2016 Game 5; Cavaliers win 112-97
Game 5 was the start of the greatest comeback in Finals history. The tides were turned in 2016, as the Warriors were without Draymond Green for this game due to his suspension. The Cavaliers took advantage and attacked the glass with mighty force the entirety of the game to force a Game 6. James scored 41 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and had seven assists in 43 minutes. Tristan Thompson took advantage of Green’s absence, snagging 15 rebounds adding six points.
The X-factor for the Cavaliers in the comeback was having a healthy Irving rolling the entire series. Irving matched James in this game, scoring 41 points as well and adding six assists. Kyrie and LeBron were able to get to the rim without much resistance, which opened up the entire offense, allowing for open threes off the drive and the ability to run up the score in Oracle Arena. The Cavaliers’ blowout win proved to be a major shift in the series as it headed back to Cleveland with the Cavs having all of the momentum.
3. 2017 Game 3; Warriors win 118-113
Game 3 in the 2017 NBA Finals was the only noteworthy contest in what was a gentleman’s sweep. The Cavaliers had control of the game heading into the 4th quarter, by winning the second quarter and dominating the third after a slow start. As usual, James and Irving were dominating the game. LeBron finished with 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 46 minutes while Kyrie had 38 points and six rebounds in 38 minutes.
Normally, when James and Irving got going and scored that many points as a tandem, Cleveland won. We saw that on display in the previous NBA Finals when LeBron and Kyrie were scoring 40 points apiece while staring down elimination. The difference in 2017 was the addition of former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant. Durant scored 31 points and added nine rebounds and four assists in this game. The Cavaliers had a two-point lead in the game with 50 seconds remaining, until Durant brought the ball up the court and made a three in the face of James to give the Warriors the lead for good.
2. 2016 Game 6; Cavaliers wins 115-101
Game 6 in the 2016 NBA Finals was once again a “win or go home” elimination game for the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers were just coming off a dominant game 5 win in Oracle Arena, giving the Cavs all of the momentum. LeBron James and company needed to protect their homecourt and beat the Warriors with Green this time. The Cavaliers brought the same intensity as they did in Game 5, storming out to a 31-11 first quarter lead led by James and Thompson bringing energy on defense.
LeBron filled up the stat sheet again, scoring 41 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out 11 assists in the victory. James also proved to be huge on defense, chipping in four steals and three blocks. Thompson once again had 16 rebounds and added 15 points. Game 6 was also the infamous “mouthguard game” for Stephen Curry, who was ejected from the game after frustration over a foul call with his thrown mouthguard hitting a fan sitting courtside.
1. 2016 Game 7; Cavaliers wins 93-89
Out of all the great games these two teams have played, there is a very clear number one on this list, Game 7 in 2016. The winner-take-all showdown goes down as one of the best games in the history of the sport. Heading into Game 5, the Cavaliers faced steep odds being down 3-1 against the 73-win Warriors. The Cavaliers never hesitated in the face of adversity, responding yet again in Oracle Arena.
After two shootouts in Games 5 and 6, Game 7 proved to be a defensive grind wire-to-wire. The Cavaliers shot 40% from the field as a team while the Warriors shot 38% from the field as a team. With the stakes high in Game 7, defense and timely shooting often prevails. We just experienced two ugly Game 7’s in the Conference Finals in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, with the Celtics shooting 34% from the field and the Rockets missing 27 consecutive three-pointers.
Cleveland’s ability to execute late in the 4th is what pushed them over the edge. Golden State failed to score in the last four minutes of the fourth — opening the opportunity for Irving to hit the go-ahead three-pointer over Curry with less than a minute remaining. The Warriors came close to taking the lead on the fastbreak with Andre Iguodala — until James swatted his shot to keep the score gridlocked at 89.
Then came Irving’s three-pointer and LeBron iced the game with a free throw, which completed the greatest comeback in league history and arguably in all of sports. James finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists while Irving scored 26 points, adding six rebounds in the win.