As the two teams battle for NBA supremacy, we take a look back at the best moments from this rivalry:
10. Draymond Green suspended for Game 5
Although it may not be considered a banner moment for Draymond Green, his low blow against LeBron James earned him a one-game suspension in 2016–and it certainly played a role in the Cavs winning the 2016 championship. Cleveland would win Game 5 on the road in Oracle Arena, en route to overcoming a 3-1 deficit for the first time in Finals history.
9. Warriors sign Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors ultimately affected one of the league’s great historical rivalries. In fact, Durant’s role on the Warriors allowed them to continue dominating the West. Similarly, LeBron James’ presence led Cleveland to Eastern supremacy. Perhaps the Warriors don’t make the next two NBA Finals without Durant’s emergence.
8. Love defends Curry
An often-forgotten part of the Cavs’ 2016 title was Kevin Love’s ability to stay in front of Stephen Curry and defend him quite capably late in a tight game. Following a stretch, Love played the best defense of his career, moving his feet perfectly and preventing Curry from getting a clean look at the basket. The Cavs led 92-89, and Curry’s forced heave allowed the Cavs to grab a rebound and hold on for their first title.
7. LeBron reacts to Klay Thompson’s trash talk
Following the Warriors grabbing a 3-1 series lead in 2016, Klay Thompson had a reaction to LeBron James’ comments that Draymond Green went “overboard” with his trash talking. Thompson said, “This is a man’s league.” LeBron laughed it off and subsequently led the Cavs to an epic 3-1 series comeback.
6. Cavaliers erupt in first quarter
The Cavaliers trailed 3-0 in the 2017 NBA Finals, but that did not stop them from trying to turn around the series. The Cavs scored 49 points in the first quarter and buried 24 three-pointers in an eventual Game 4 win. Cleveland erupted for 87 first-half points. The Warriors would win the series in five games.
5. Durant plays hero in Game 3 win
In 2017, the Warriors took the first two games at Oracle Arena, but the Cavaliers were poised to hold serve at home. Kevin Durant, with the Warriors down by 2 and less than a minute to play, hauled in a rebound and embarked on a fast-break. He let a three-pointer fly, and the conversion gave the Warriors an unlikely lead and a pivotal Game 3 win. The Warriors won the series in 5.
4. Andre Iguodala emerges
The Warriors won their first title in 2015 thanks to a shrewd coaching decision from Steve Kerr. He turned to his “death lineup,” which featured a small-ball look and no traditional big. By putting Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup, the Warriors were able to neutralize the Cavaliers’ defense. Plus, Iguodala played terrific defense against LeBron James, leading to NBA Finals MVP.
3. Curry cooks in pivotal Game 5
Despite facing a short-handed Cavaliers team, the Warriors found themselves in a tight Game 5 (series tied 2-2) in 2015. Stephen Curry, a two-time MVP, emerged as the hero, knocking down seven three-pointers, in an eventual 104-91 win. Curry scored 37 points and the Warriors would go on to win the first championship in this rivalry.
2. The chasedown block
Kyrie Irving’s legendary three-pointer only has a chance to win the game because it was still tied. LeBron James provided one of the great defensive plays in NBA history, when he recovered on a fast-break 2-on-1 to pin Andre Iguodala’s layup attempt against the backboard. The game remained tied at 89, and the Warriors never scored again. The Cavaliers took the 2016 title.
1. Kyrie Irving sticks the 2016 winner
Although LeBron James receives much of the recognition for the Cavaliers’ 2016 title, Kyrie Irving hit the deciding shot. Tied, 89-89, with a little less than a minute to play in the game, Irving hit a historical stepback three-pointer over the outstretched arms of Stephen Curry. The Cavs went on to win an unlikely championship, after coming back from a 3-1 deficit against a 73-win Warriors team.
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