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|First meeting||October 17, 1970
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 meetings|
|All-time series||Warriors, 68–59|
|Regular season series||Warriors, 57–52 |
|Postseason results||Warriors, 11–7|
|Longest win streak||
|Current win streak||Warriors, 1|
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 have met in three straight NBA Finals, becoming the only two teams in NBA history to do so. Of these three series, the Warriors have won two, most recently in 2017—the Cavaliers have won one, in 2016. The two teams feature 11 NBA All-Stars: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver (Cleveland), and Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, David West and Andre Iguodala (Golden State). Two players, Andrew Bogut and Anderson Varejão, played for both teams during this time.
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 series close to even. The two teams played each other close during LeBron James' first stint with the Cavaliers in the 2000s. From 2011 to 2013, James left the Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat and the Warriors were building a team around rising stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors won six straight meetings.
The Warriors led the head-to-head series 53–50 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 the first-pick in the 2014 NBA draft, 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 young, uprising team that had a lot of potential. The team was led by their backcourt of the "Splash Brothers", Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and developed a fast paced, up-tempo offense, consisting mainly of three point shooting. The Warriors were considered to be potential contenders in the near future.
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. 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.
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). 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. James was third in MVP voting. He averaged 25.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 7.4 APG. 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.
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.
The Warriors were looking to improve on what was an already great 2015 season when they started the season 24–0, the most wins without a loss to start a season in NBA history. They also accomplished the second-longest winning streak in NBA history (28). By the All-Star break, the Warriors had a record of 48–4, including winning both of its regular season meetings with Cleveland. This was the best record at all-star break in league history. Curry and Thompson made another All-Star selection, along with Draymond Green making his first All-Star selection of his career. Golden State went on to break the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls 72–10 season record to win 73 games, which is the most in NBA history. Despite their regular season dominance, the Warriors had more difficulty in the Western Conference playoffs than many expected. After defeating the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers without Steph Curry for several games, the Warriors were pushed to the brink by the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by All-Star and former MVP Kevin Durant and All-Star Russell Westbrook, in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder shocked many by jumping out to a 3–1 lead and had the Warriors on the brink of elimination. However, the Warriors were able to battle their way back and would eventually win the series 4–3. One month after Durant lost to the Warriors, he signed with the same team, causing a very controversial offseason.
In comparison to the dominant Warriors, the Cavaliers faced some challenges in the 2015–16 campaign. Irving was still recovering from a knee injury suffered in Game 1 of the previous season's Finals and would miss most of the first half of the season. Despite a roster that many observers recognized as being among the best in basketball, the Cavaliers would prove to be very inconsistent throughout the duration of the regular season. A low point came in a humiliating home defeat to the Warriors in January which resulted in the firing of head coach David Blatt and the appointment of Tyronn Lue to the head coach position several days later. Despite the struggles, the team would finish the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference and would tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs with an overall record of 12–2 and would make their second consecutive Finals appearance.
The 2016 NBA Finals saw the Cavaliers and Warriors meet for the second straight season. Despite the Cavaliers entering the series with a player in LeBron James whom many still considered to be the best in the world, the Warriors were overwhelming favorites to repeat as champions. 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, the Warriors' victory came at a great price. All-Star forward Draymond Green became entangled in an on court confrontation with 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.
Going into Game 5, 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. They were attempting to win three straight games, with two of the three games being on the road. Kyrie Irving and LeBron came up big for the Cavaliers, each dropping 41 points. They became the first pair of teammates to drop at least 40 points in a Finals game. The Cavaliers lived to see another game, winning the game 112–97. Back in Cleveland, LeBron James continued his explosive scoring, dropping another 41-point game. He became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal to score over 40 points in back-to-back NBA Finals games. Curry was fouled out of the game with six fouls. The Cavaliers won the game 101–115.
After forcing a Game 7 back at Oracle Arena, the Cavaliers finished the historic comeback and defeated the 73–win Warriors in iconic fashion. The Cavaliers' big three all had great moments late in the game. With the score tied 89-89, James blocked Andre Iguodala from the other side of the court. Irving followed that up with a side-step three-pointer over Curry to give the Cavs the lead. Love stopped Curry from hitting a potential game-tying three pointer. James finished the game 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. He would go on to win his third Finals MVP in unanimous fashion, leading all Finals players in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Irving shot 10–23, 2–5 from outside, finishing with 26 points. Draymond Green led the Warriors with 32 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists. Curry, the unanimous regular season MVP, finished with only 17 points, shooting 6–19 from the field and 4–14 from three-point range.
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.  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 three years, and Durant's first championship and NBA Finals MVP.
|Cavaliers victories||Warriors victories|
|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
|25||December 25, 2017||Oakland|
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