Cavaliers–Warriors rivalry

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Cavaliers–Warriors rivalry
Cleveland Cavaliers wordmark logo 2017.png
Cleveland Cavaliers
Golden State Warriors wordmark.png
Golden State Warriors
First meeting October 17, 1970[1]
Warriors 128, Cavaliers 108
Latest meeting June 12, 2017
Warriors 129, Cavaliers 120
Next meeting December 25, 2017, Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
Meetings total 127[2] meetings
All-time series Warriors, 68–59
Regular season series Warriors, 57–52 [3]
Postseason results Warriors, 11–7
Longest win streak
  • Cavaliers, 10 (1992–96)
  • Warriors, 7 (2015–16)
Current win streak Warriors, 1
Post-season history

The Cavaliers–Warriors rivalry is a National Basketball Association (NBA) rivalry between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. While the two teams have played each other since the Cavaliers joined the league in 1970, their rivalry did not develop until the 2014–15 season, when they met in the first of three consecutive NBA Finals series. The two teams became the only two teams in NBA history to meet in the Finals three straight years. Of these three series, the Warriors have won two, most recently in 2017—the Cavaliers have won one, in 2016. The two teams currently feature 12 current or former NBA All-Stars: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and LeBron James (Cleveland), and David West, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala (Golden State).

Pre-2014 history

The Warriors dominated the early series, going 37–22 (.627) from 1970 to 1991. The Cavaliers would win 10 straight games from 1992 to 1996 to make the reduce Golden State's lead to 37–32 (.536). The two teams played each other close during LeBron James' first stint with the Cavaliers in the 2000s. From 2010 to 2013, James left the Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat while the Warriors were a lottery team.

The Warriors led the head-to-head series 53–50 (.515) through the end of the 2013–14 season.

James returned to the Cavaliers during the 2014 off-season. The Cavaliers then acquired All-Star power forward Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins and other assets. The Cavaliers quickly became the favorite to win the East, as they already had All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving and other rising stars such as Tristan Thompson.

In the Western Conference, the Warriors were a team lead by their backcourt of the "Splash Brothers", Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and a developed fast paced, up-tempo offense, consisting mainly of three point shooting.

2014–15 season

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love formed the NBA's newest big three. Going into the season, the Cavaliers had expectations to make it to the NBA Finals, now that they surrounded James with a better supporting cast than the one he had during his initial stint in Cleveland. The team started off the season poorly, with Love not adjusting to his new role in Cleveland and SG Dion Waiters unable to handle being relegated to a secondary role. The Cavaliers started off the season with a dismal record of 19–20. James missed two weeks in January with a back injury.[4] Later that month, the Cavaliers traded away Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a three-team deal with the New York Knicks. They acquired three-point specialist J.R. Smith and defensive asset Iman Shumpert. The team also acquired center and rim protector Timofey Mozgov in a separate trade. These three players were key pieces to the team's return to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Stephen Curry (pictured) of the Warriors won his first Most Valuable Player Award in 2015.

The Warriors surprised the league. They started off the season 21-2, with a 16-game winning streak, which made them the early title favorites. Stephen Curry immediately became a Most Valuable Player favorite. The Warriors also had developed their own big three. Curry was improving off of last year's All-Star season. Klay Thompson became one of the best shooting guards, three-point shooters, and two-way players in the league. Draymond Green averaged about 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Rookie head coach Steve Kerr was a candidate for Coach of the Year.

The two teams split their head-to-head meetings that season, each winning on its home court.

Irving, James, Curry, and Thompson were all named to their respective NBA All Star teams, with Curry finishing first in the all-star voting (1,513,324), and LeBron James finishing in second (1,470,483).[5] Curry won the NBA MVP Award, averaging 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, and 2.0 steals per game, and shot 44.3% from three-point territory.[6] James was third in MVP voting. He averaged 25.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 7.4 APG.[7] They were featured on the All-NBA First Team. Irving and Thompson made the All-NBA team as well. The Cavaliers finished the season with a record of 53–29, and the Warriors finished the season with a record of 67–15.

2015 NBA Finals

The Warriors and the Cavaliers lost just a combined five games in the first three rounds of the playoffs. For the first time in NBA Finals history, both teams were coached by rookie head coaches in the forms of Steve Kerr and David Blatt. The Cavaliers faced injury trouble, losing Love in the first round to a separated shoulder. Irving left Game 1 of the Finals in overtime after fracturing his left kneecap. The Warriors would go on to take a 1–0 lead in a 108–100 overtime thriller. Game 2 also went into overtime, but the one-man force of LeBron James took the game 95–93. James had carried the limping Cavaliers to a Game 3 win and a 2–1 lead over the Warriors, but the team ran out of gas. The Warriors would win the next three games to take home the 2015 NBA Championship. Andre Iguodala would win the NBA Finals MVP, although James averaged 35.8 PPG, 13.3 RPG, and 8.8 APG in a losing effort.

2015–16 season

The 2015–16 Cleveland Cavaliers season saw the firing of head coach David Blatt (left), who would be replaced by assistant coach Tyronn Lue (right).

The Warriors opened the 2015-16 season going 24–0, the most wins without a loss to start a season in NBA history and the second-longest winning streak in NBA history (28). By the All-Star break, the Warriors' record was a stellar 48–4, including a pair of regular season victories against Cleveland. This was the best record at an all-star break in league history. Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green earned all-star selections. Golden State went on to break the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls 72–10 season record by winning 73 games. Stephen Curry became the first unanimous MVP in the history of the NBA that year.

Despite their regular season dominance, the Warriors struggled in the Western Conference playoffs. After defeating James Harden's Houston Rockets and Damian Lillard's Portland Trailblazers without Steph Curry for several games, the Warriors were pushed to seven games by Russell Westbrook's Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder jumped to a 3–1 lead but the Warriors were able to battle their way back and win the series.

The Cavaliers faced some challenges in the 2015–16 campaign. Kyrie Irving was recovering from a knee injury sustained in Game 1 of the previous season's Finals and would miss most of the first half of the season. Despite some hardship, Cleveland performed well throughout the first half of the season. After a home win against the Clippers, elevating Cleveland's record to 31-10, head coach David Blatt was replaced by Tyronn Lue. The team finished the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference and defeated the Toronto Raptors in 6 games to advance to the finals against the defending champion Warriors.

Finals for the ages

Inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland before the start of Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

The 2016 NBA Finals saw the Cavaliers and Warriors meet for the second straight season. The Warriors captured Games 1 and 2 in Oakland before the series moved to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4. The Cavaliers won Game 3 in convincing fashion sending the series to a Game 4 with the Warriors leading 2–1. In a pivotal Game 4, Draymond Green committed a flagrant foul on LeBron James. After reviewing the incident post-game, the league determined that the altercation warranted a flagrant 1 foul being assigned to Green. The foul put Green over the NBA's flagrant foul limit and meant he would be suspended for a possibly series-clinching Game 5.

LeBron James (right) posts up Klay Thompson (left) at the 2016 NBA Finals.

3–1 deficit

Going into Game 5 without Draymond Green, the Warriors held a 3–1 series lead. On all 32 previous occasions, the teams that had a 3–1 series lead in the finals had all gone on to win the championship. Lebron James and the Cavaliers were against all odds in Game 5, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James both scored 41 points to send the series to a Game 6, winning 112–97. They became the first pair of teammates to score at least 40 points in a Finals game. Back in Cleveland, LeBron James continued his explosive scoring, tallying another 41-point game. James became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal to score over 40 points in back-to-back NBA Finals games. The Cavaliers won the game 101–115.

Game 7

With the series shifting back to Oracle Arena for the championship decider, the Warriors and the Cavaliers went back and forth. Late in the 4th quarter, with the scores tied 89-89, the Warriors were in possesion of the ball on a fastbreak. Stephen Curry passed the ball to Andre Igoudala, who was forced to go up for a layup due to J.R Smith's contest. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Lebron James blocked Igoudala's attempt off the backboard, completing one of the most famous plays in Finals history. With a minute to go both teams were tied at 89–89, Kyrie Irving hit a clutch three to give the Cavaliers 92–89 lead, Kevin Love contested a three pointer from Stephen Curry to prevent a tie game. After fouling Lebron James by Draymond Green, Lebron James hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Cavaliers 93–89 lead. In the final seconds of the game, Stephen Curry attempted a three, but missed, leading the Cavaliers to win their first franchise title as well as becoming the first team in NBA Finals to come back from a 3–1 lead. Lebron James become only the third player ever to have a triple double in a game 7 finals history and became the first unanimous finals MVP after leading in all five categories of points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

2016–17 season: Arrival of Kevin Durant

The Warriors continued their dominance with the signing of Kevin Durant (pictured) for the 2016–17 season.

In the summer of 2016, the Warriors acquired former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar free agent Kevin Durant. He averaged 25.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 1.6 BPG. The Warriors now had the league's former MVPs in Durant and Curry. After finishing 67–15, the first team in NBA history to win at least 67 games in three straight seasons, the Warriors went 12–0 in the Western Conference playoffs. They became the second team in league history to sweep all three rounds after the Los Angeles Lakers (1988–89 and 2000–01), doing it against the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors were the first team to start the NBA playoffs 12–0. Curry and Durant became the only players in NBA history to enter the NBA Finals to averaging at least 25 PPG and shooting 50% from the field.

In the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers got through to the Finals almost as easy. They went 12–1, with their only loss coming in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home to the Boston Celtics. James was considered playing his best basketball of his career, entering the Finals averaging 32.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.0 APG, 2.2 SPG, and 1.4 BPG. He shot 57% from the field and 42% from three. James averaged a triple double in the finals. Kevin Love also played his best basketball as a Cavalier, averaging 17.2 PPG 10.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, shooting 46% from the field, and 44% from behind the arc. [8] Kyrie Irving set a career playoff-high 42 points during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston. The Warriors and Cavaliers had a combined 24–1 record entering the Finals, the fewest amount of combined losses entering the Finals ever.

The series faced high anticipation as the Warriors, now dubbed as a "super-team", looked for revenge on their East coast foe from the previous year's upset. The Cavaliers looked to earn back to back rings and defeat their West Coast rivals. The Warriors easily took Games 1 & 2 at home, blowing out James and the Cavs 113–91, and 132–113. Game 3 was hosted by Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena, which oversaw an 11–0 run by the Warriors in the closing minutes to seal a 118–113 comeback victory. Down 3–0, the Cavaliers saw two choices: Game 5, or get swept. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving led the desperate Cavaliers over the Warriors in comfortable fashion, 137–116, including a record breaking 49 points in the first quarter. Hoping to avoid another blown 3–1 lead, Durant and the Warriors looked to finish the series once and for all back at home. Despite an early domination from James and Cleveland, the Warriors took home the 2017 NBA Finals with a 129–120 victory. It was the team's second title in 3 years, and Durant's first champion and NBA Finals MVP.[9]

Results (2014–15 season–present)

Cavaliers victories Warriors victories
No. Date Location Winner Score Notes
1 January 9, 2015 Oakland Warriors 112–94
2 February 26, 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers 110–99
3 June 4, 2015 Oakland Warriors 108–100 (OT) 2015 NBA Finals, Game 1
4 June 7, 2015 Oakland Cavaliers 95–93 (OT) 2015 NBA Finals, Game 2
5 June 9, 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers 96–91 2015 NBA Finals, Game 3
6 June 11, 2015 Cleveland Warriors 103–82 2015 NBA Finals, Game 4
7 June 14, 2015 Oakland Warriors 104–91 2015 NBA Finals, Game 5
8 June 16, 2015 Cleveland Warriors 105–97 2015 NBA Finals, Game 6
Warriors win series, 4–2
9 December 25, 2015 Oakland Warriors 89–83 Christmas game
10 January 18, 2016 Cleveland Warriors 132–98
11 June 2, 2016 Oakland Warriors 104–89 2016 NBA Finals, Game 1
12 June 5, 2016 Oakland Warriors 110–77 2016 NBA Finals, Game 2
13 June 8, 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers 120–90 2016 NBA Finals, Game 3
14 June 10, 2016 Cleveland Warriors 108–97 2016 NBA Finals, Game 4
15 June 13, 2016 Oakland Cavaliers 112–97 2016 NBA Finals, Game 5
16 June 16, 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers 115–101 2016 NBA Finals, Game 6
17 June 19, 2016 Oakland Cavaliers 93–89 2016 NBA Finals, Game 7
Cavaliers win series, 4–3
18 December 25, 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers 109–108 Christmas game
19 January 16, 2017 Oakland Warriors 126–91
20 June 1, 2017 Oakland Warriors 113–91 2017 NBA Finals, Game 1
21 June 4, 2017 Oakland Warriors 132–113 2017 NBA Finals, Game 2
22 June 7, 2017 Cleveland Warriors 118–113 2017 NBA Finals, Game 3
23 June 9, 2017 Cleveland Cavaliers 137–116 2017 NBA Finals, Game 4
24 June 12, 2017 Oakland Warriors 129–120 2017 NBA Finals, Game 5
Warriors win series, 4–1

See also


  1. ^ " - CLE vs GSW". National Basketball Association. Retrieved May 30, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors All-Time Head-to-Head Record in the NBA". Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  3. ^ "Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Head-to-Head in the NBA Regular Season - All-Time Game Log". Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  4. ^ "LeBron James of Cleveland Cavaliers expected to miss 2 weeks". 2015-01-02. Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  5. ^ "2015 NBA All-Star Game Voting". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  6. ^ "Stephen Curry Stats". Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  7. ^ "LeBron James Stats". Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  8. ^ "Kevin Love Stats". Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  9. ^ "NBA finals: Golden State Warriors win title against Cavaliers – as it happened". Guardian. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
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