NBA

Looking back on the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals history

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The routes they took were somewhat unpredictable. Yet as has been the expectation all season, the Warriors and Cavs will tangle in the NBA Finals once again, their fourth straight battle for a championship. Through the three previous series and 18 total games, a variety of moments and storylines have summed up a rivalry that has seen Golden State win a pair of titles and Cleveland claim one of its own.

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The block

Eric Risberg/AP

With the score tied and less than two minutes left in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, LeBron James unleashed what may have been the most iconic play of his career. He chased down Andre Iguodala for the best of his patented blocks from behind, then Kyrie Irving went on to drill the game-winning three 57 seconds later. That’s how the Cavs won their first and only title.

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The shot

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Speaking of Irving’s three, James wouldn’t have been able to get his city a championship banner without it. The shot, a smooth stepback from the right wing just over the outstretched hand of Stephen Curry, completed Cleveland’s comeback from down three games to one in the series and added an asterisk to the Warriors’ 73-win season. It also secured Irving’s place among the league’s best.

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The new guy

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In the ultimate case of the rich getting richer, the Warriors added Kevin Durant after the 2016 loss, pretty much rendering academic their second title of this era. Golden State went 16-1 in the 2017 playoffs and Durant averaged 35 points in the five-game Finals win. He punctuated his MVP performance with a go-ahead three in James’s face with 45 seconds left in Game 3.

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The injuries

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The 2014-15 Cavs entered the Finals without Kevin Love and lost Irving to a fractured kneecap in overtime of their Game 1 defeat in Oakland. Despite those absences, James dragged Cleveland to wins in Games 2 and 3 with the likes of J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova as his top sidekicks.

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The wildcards

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Curry, Durant and Klay Thompson garner most of the attention, but guys like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala provide plenty of fuel for these runs. Green has become as much a part of the Warriors’ consciousness as anyone, but he was an unknown commodity when this era began. And Iguodala went from being The Man early in his career in Philadelphia to the ultimate role player for the Warriors, winning the 2015 Finals MVP.

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The greatest

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This Warriors-Cavs meeting marks their fourth straight but James himself will be participating in an eighth consecutive Finals. Stop and consider that for a second. Bill Russell achieved the same feat from 1959 to 1966 (winning them all), but as great a champion as Russell was, the level of competition and intensity doesn’t compare. James’s accomplishment is superior to any in NBA history.

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