NBA FINALS: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
HISTORIC FINALS MATCHUP
- The series between the Warriors and Cavaliers marks the first time in NBA history that the same teams are meeting in The Finals for the third consecutive season. This has happened once each in the other three major North American pro sports:
NFL: Cleveland Browns vs. Detroit Lions in NFL Championship Game from 1952-54 (pre-Super Bowl era).
MLB: New York Yankees vs. New York Giants in World Series from 1921-23.
NHL: Detroit Red Wings vs. Montreal Canadiens in Stanley Cup Finals from 1954-56.
HISTORIC FINALS MATCHUP, PART II
- The Warriors are 12-0 this postseason and the Cavaliers are 12-1. The NBA hasn’t had a championship series in which both teams reached The Finals with one loss or fewer in the playoffs since the 1950s, when teams played far fewer postseason games before The Finals.
- Since the NBA playoffs expanded to 16 teams for the 1983-84 season, this is the “best” Finals matchup based on combined playoff winning percentage of the two teams.
Best Combined Win % Entering Finals Since 1984
Year Teams W-L Win% 2017 CLE/GSW 24-1 .960 1989 DET/LAL 22-2 .917 1991 CHI/LAL 22-4 .846 1986 BOS/HOU 22-4 .846 2015 CLE/GSW 22-5 .828
- The Warriors are the first team in NBA history to win their first 12 games in a postseason. That makes them the first team to be 12-0 entering The Finals. If they were to win The Finals in five games or fewer, they would finish with the best single-season playoff winning percentage in NBA history. The same is true for the Cavaliers if they were to sweep the Warriors:
Best Single-Season Winning Percentage In Playoffs
Season Team Record Win% 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers 15-1 .938 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers 12-1 .923 1998-99 San Antonio Spurs 15-2 .882 1990-91 Chicago Bulls 15-2 .882 1988-89 Detroit Pistons 15-2 .882
- The Warriors are the first team to enter The Finals without a loss since the 2001 Lakers (11-0). That Lakers team included current Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue. L.A. lost Game 1 of The Finals to the 76ers (with Allen Iverson famously stepping over Lue) before winning the next four to finish with the best playoff run in NBA history at 15-1.
- LeBron James (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013), Kevin Durant (2014) and Stephen Curry (2015, 2016) have combined to win seven of the last eight MVP awards.
- The Finals features seven 2017 All-Stars and 11 players who have been All-Stars in their career. The NBA hasn’t had a Finals with seven current All-Stars or 11 all-time All-Stars since 1983 (Lakers vs. 76ers).
- Of the 16 active players with multiple 50-point games, five will be part of The Finals: LeBron James (10; most for active players), Stephen Curry (5), Kevin Durant (4), Kyrie Irving (2) and Klay Thompson (2).
- Klay Thompson and Kevin Love own the top-scoring quarters in NBA history. Thompson set the record with a 37-point third quarter vs. Sacramento on Jan. 23, 2015. Love is second on the list with a 34-point first quarter vs. Portland on Nov. 23, 2016.
- LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant at small forward, Kyrie Irving vs. Stephen Curry at point guard and Kevin Love vs. Draymond Green at power forward are among the most compelling individual matchups in the game.
- James and Durant met once before in The Finals, in 2012, when LeBron (28.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 7.4 apg in series) and the Miami Heat defeated KD (30.6 ppg in series) and the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. This was the first of James’ three NBA titles.
LeBRON JAMES: FINALS FIXTURE
- LeBron James is set to become the seventh player in NBA history to appear in a Finals game in each of seven consecutive seasons. The other six all played for the Boston Celtics in the 1950s and 1960s:
Most Consecutive Seasons, At Least 1 Game Played In Finals
Player Team Finals Streak Years Bill Russell BOS 10 Seasons 1956-65 Sam Jones BOS 9 Seasons 1957-65 Tom Heinsohn BOS 9 Seasons 1956-64 Frank Ramsey BOS 8 Seasons 1956-63 K.C. Jones BOS 8 Seasons 1958-65 Bob Cousy BOS 7 Seasons 1956-62 LeBron James MIA/CLE 7 Seasons 2011-17
- James is set to play in his eighth Finals overall (he made his Finals debut in 2007). Only six players have appeared in more Finals series than James: Bill Russell (12), Sam Jones (11), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (10), Tom Heinsohn (nine), Magic Johnson (nine) and Jerry West (nine).
- During this series, James has a chance to become the active leader in victories in Finals games. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are the active leaders with 19 Finals wins each. James is two behind with 17.
LEBRON JAMES: FINALS MILESTONES
- James is the seventh-leading scorer in Finals history. He needs 98 points to pass Michael Jordan for third place, behind Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. James is fresh off passing Jordan as the top scorer in playoff history. Here is where James stands in Finals scoring only:
Most Points, Finals History
Rank Player Points 1 Jerry West 1,679 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1,317 3 Michael Jordan 1,176 4 Elgin Baylor 1,161 5 Bill Russell 1,151 6 Sam Jones 1,143 7 LeBron James 1,079
- James is a three-time Finals MVP, joining Michael Jordan (six), Shaquille O’Neal (three), Tim Duncan (three) and Magic Johnson (three) as the only players with at least three. If James were to win Finals MVP again this year, he would join Jordan as the only players with four or more.
- James is either at the top or climbing the charts of several major Finals categories.
See below for where he ranks in various categories:
1. Bill Russell 1,718
2. Wilt Chamberlain 862
3. Elgin Baylor 593
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
5. Tom Heinsohn 473
6. Tim Duncan 452
7. Bob Pettit 416
8. Magic Johnson 397
9. LeBron James 396
MOST DREB (tracked since 1973-74)
1. Tim Duncan 327
2. LeBron James 319
1. Magic Johnson 102
2. LeBron James 74
1. Magic Johnson 584
2. Bob Cousy 400
3. Bill Russell 315
4. Jerry West 306
5. LeBron James 289
MOST 3FG MADE
1. LeBron James 68
2. Stephen Curry 57
MOST FGS MADE
1. Jerry West 612
2. K. Abdul-Jabbar 544
3. Sam Jones 458
4. Elgin Baylor 442
5. Michael Jordan 438
6. Bill Russell 415
7. Tom Heinsohn 407
8. LeBron James 405
1. Bill Russell 3,185
2. Jerry West 2,375
3. K. Abdul-Jabbar 2,082
4. Magic Johnson 2,044
5. John Havlicek 1,872
6. Sam Jones 1,871
7. Elgin Baylor 1,850
8. LeBron James 1,710
1. Magic Johnson 8
2. LeBron James 7
COACHES: INSTANT SUCCESS
- Head coaches Steve Kerr of Golden State and Tyronn Lue of Cleveland were both championship-winning guards who went head-to-head as NBA players.
- Kerr has joined Pat Riley as the only coaches in NBA history to make The Finals in each of their first three seasons as a head coach. (Riley did it his first four years.)
- Lue will try to accomplish what Kerr nearly did last year: win an NBA title in each of his first two seasons as head coach. The only NBA coach to ever do that is John Kundla, who guided the Minneapolis Lakers to championships in 1949 and 1950. Kundla, who earned five titles in his Hall of Fame career, is 100 years old.
- In back-to-back years, Kerr and Lue have joined the short list of coaches to make The Finals in each of their first two seasons as an NBA head coach. Here’s the list of eight:
NBA Coaches To Make The Finals in First Two Seasons
Coach Team Seasons Eddie Gottlieb Philadelphia Warriors 1946-47—1947-48 (2) John Kundla Minneapolis Lakers 1948-49—1949-50 (2) Charlie Eckman Fort Wayne Pistons 1954-55—1955-56 (2) Alex Hannum St. Louis Hawks 1956-57—1957-58 (2) Butch Van Breda Kolff Los Angeles Lakers 1967-68—1968-69 (2) Pat Riley Los Angeles Lakers 1981-82—1984-85 (4) Steve Kerr Golden State Warriors 2014-15—2016-17 (3) Tyronn Lue Cleveland Cavaliers 2015-16—2016-17 (2)
- Depending on Kerr’s availability, Warriors lead assistant Mike Brown could end up serving as acting head coach against his former team. Brown had two stints as Cleveland’s head coach, from 2005-10 and 2013-14. He led the Cavaliers to their first-ever Finals appearance, in 2007, and was named 2008-09 Coach of the Year after guiding Cleveland to a franchise-record 66 wins.
THREE-POINT SHOOTING: THINGS’LL BE GREAT WHEN YOU’RE DOWNTOWN
- Cleveland and Golden State embody the modern NBA offense, which is built on floor spacing, ball and player movement, and an abundance of three-point shots. At certain points in this series, all 10 players on the court will be three-point threats.
- Golden State and Cleveland own the second- and third-most-prolific three-point-shooting seasons in NBA history. In 2015-16, the Warriors set an NBA single-season record with 1,077 three-pointers. This season, Cleveland fell just shy of that mark with 1,067 threes, the third-highest total in NBA history. (The 2016-17 Rockets broke the Warriors’ record with 1,181 triples this season.)
- Stephen Curry has led the NBA in three-pointers made in every season since 2012-13. He holds the top three single-season marks for threes made in NBA history. Curry and Klay Thompson have seven of the 10 top spots on the all-time list.
- Curry hit an NBA single-game record 13 three-pointers vs. New Orleans on Nov. 5 this season.
- The Cavaliers broke the single-game record for three-pointers this season, making 25 against Atlanta on March 3.
- Stephen Curry and Cleveland’s Kyle Korver are the only players in NBA history to make a three-pointer in at least 100 consecutive regular-season games. Curry holds the record with 157 games, followed by Korver with 127 games.
- Three players in the NBA’s all-time top 15 for regular-season three-pointers made will be in the series: Kyle Korver (tied for fifth with 2,049 threes), Stephen Curry (10th with 1,917 threes) and Cleveland’s J.R. Smith (15th with 1,774 threes).
- LeBron James (68) and Stephen Curry (57) rank first and second, respectively, on the all-time list for Finals threes. They’re also second and fifth, respectively, on the all-time list for playoff threes. James needs two threes to pass Reggie Miller (320) for second place in postseason history. Curry needs five to reach 300 playoff threes.
WORTH THE WAIT: KYLE KORVER AND DAVID WEST MAKE FINALS DEBUTS
- Cleveland’s Kyle Korver and Golden State’s David West are both 36-year-old former All-Stars, great teammates and non-lottery gems from the famed 2003 NBA Draft (which produced LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh). They have another thing in common now: Both are set to play in The Finals for the first time – in their first season with their respective teams.
- Among active players, only Utah’s Joe Johnson (112 playoff games) has played in more postseason games without appearing in a Finals game than Korver (104) and West (95).
- Korver, tied for fifth all time in three-pointers made in the regular season, is one of two active NBA players from the second round of the 2003 draft (No. 51 pick). The other? Another 2017 Finals participant: Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia (No. 42 pick).
WARRIORS EYE FIFTH NBA CHAMPIONSHIP ON 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST
- This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Warriors’ first NBA championship, which came in the league’s inaugural season of 1946-47, when the franchise was located in Philadelphia. In that season, the Warriors defeated the Chicago Stags behind the NBA’s first scoring champion, Joe Fulks, and coach Eddie Gottlieb, one of the NBA’s founders. The NBA Rookie of the Year trophy is named after Gottlieb.
- The Warriors are making their ninth Finals appearance, tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the third most in NBA history. A series victory would give the Warriors their fifth title, which would tie San Antonio for the fourth most all time.
CAVALIERS: 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST FINALS APPEARANCE
- Cleveland made its first Finals appearance 10 years ago, 2007. Coached by Mike Brown and led by LeBron James, the Cavs were swept by the Spurs in four games.
- At the time, LeBron was 22 years old and had yet to win any of his four MVP awards.
- Of the 13 players who logged minutes for the Cavaliers in the 2007 Finals, LeBron is the only one still active in the NBA.
TRISTAN THOMPSON vs. ZAZA PACHULIA: INTERNATIONAL CENTERS BATTLE
- Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson (Canada) and Zaza Pachulia (Georgia) will go head-to-head in a matchup of starting centers who focus on rebounding, defending the paint and setting screens for their star teammates. (This assumes Pachulia is healthy and starts ahead of JaVale McGee.)
- Thompson has represented Canada in international play several times. He is an anchor for the country’s NBA surge, with Canada having more non-U.S. players on opening-night rosters than any other country in each of the last three seasons.
- Pachulia has represented the Georgian national team nearly every summer for years. He has been very active in promoting the game back home, where he is incredibly popular. Pachulia is the NBA’s only active player from the former Soviet republic, and he is seeking to become Georgia’s first NBA champion.
- Thompson has the fourth-highest field goal percentage in Finals history at 56.5.
- LeBron James and Stephen Curry are from Akron, Ohio. Curry was born there while his father, Dell, played for the Cavs in 1987-88, Dell’s only season with the team in a 16-year career that included an NBA Sixth Man Award and prolific three-point shooting.
- Before he won three titles with Chicago and two with San Antonio as a player, Steve Kerr spent three-plus seasons with Cleveland.
- Warriors guard Shaun Livingston’s solid stint with the Cavaliers in 2012-13 led to a contract with the Nets for 2013-14 and then a multiyear deal with the Warriors. A former preps-to-pros phenom, Livingston has revived his career after a devastating knee injury.
- The brothers of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have spent time with the Cavaliers — Seth Curry in 2013-14 and Mychel Thompson in 2011-12.
- Klay Thompson and Draymond Green teamed with Kyrie Irving on USA Basketball’s gold-medal-winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
- The Warriors are 27-1 in their last 28 games dating to March 14 of the regular season. The only loss was vs. Utah in the second-to-last game of the regular season (April 10).
- Cleveland and Golden State played one of the most thrilling games of the 2016-17 regular season, a 109-108 Christmas Day win for the Cavaliers, who rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and got a game-winning jumper from Kyrie Irving.
- The Warriors have won at least one road game in each of their last 14 playoff series, a franchise record.
- The Cavaliers have won 13 consecutive “close-out” games in the playoffs, breaking an NBA record held by the Lakers (2000-04).