Looking back at the 2017-18 NBA Finals

Last night the Golden State Warriors easily defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to pull off the NBA’s first Finals sweep in over a decade. It also gave the Warriors their third championship in four years, as they managed to once again overwhelm LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

What this means historically for the Warriors and Cavs

This win gives the Warriors their third championship in four years. This puts them in elite company in the history of the NBA in terms of teams who won three titles in four years or less. They are also only the third team to win back-to-back championships while only losing one game in the Finals.

*The early 1950s Lakers and 1960s Celtics ended up overlapping each other by definition.

Team Years (Span) Finals made in span Record in Finals
Minneapolis Lakers *Four Years (1949-52) 3 3-0
Minneapolis Lakers *Three Years (1952-54) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1957-60) 4 3-1
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1960-62) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1961-63) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1962-64) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1963-65) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1964-66) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1965-68) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1966-69) 3 3-0
Los Angeles Lakers Four Years (1985-88) 4 3-1
Chicago Bulls Three Years (1991-93) 3 3-0
Chicago Bulls Three Years (1996-98) 3 3-0
Los Angeles Lakers Three Years (2000-02) 3 3-0
Golden State Warriors Four Years (2015-18) 4 3-1
Team Span Finals Record
Detriot Pistons 1988-1990 8-1
Los Angeles Lakers 2000-2002 8-1
Golden State Warriors 2016-2018 8-1

In getting swept by the Warriors, the Cavaliers became only the ninth team to get swept in the NBA Finals. Ironically, the last team to get swept in the Finals was also the LeBron led Cavs back in 2007.

Team that got swept Opponent Year
Minneapolis Lakers Boston Celtics 1959
Baltimore Bullets Milwaukee Bucks 1971
Washington Bullets Golden State Warriors 1975
Los Angeles Lakers Philadelphia 76ers 1983
Los Angeles Lakers Detroit Pistons 1989
Orlando Magic Houston Rockets 1995
New Jersey Nets Los Angeles Lakers 2002
Cleveland Cavaliers San Antonio Spurs 2007
Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors 2018

The Cavaliers also joined the small list of NBA teams who lost three Finals in a four-year span or less.

*The 1960s Lakers spans all ended up overlapping with each other.

Team Span (Years) Finals Record
New York Knicks Three Years (1951-53) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1962-65) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1963-66) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1965-68) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1966-69) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Three Years (1968-70) 0-3
Cleveland Cavaliers Four Years (2015-18) 1-3

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The Ying and Yang of Steph Curry

In their game two victory, Steph Curry set the NBA playoffs and Finals record by making nine three-pointers. Since the NBA added the three-point line in 1979-80, there have only been 13 occasions where a player has made at least seven three-pointers in a playoff game. Curry is now responsible for five of those after making seven in game four on top of his game two performance.

However, he followed that up with a disastrous performance in game three. Curry was 3-16 from the field, making it only the 79th playoff game (since 1963-64) in which a player took at least that many shots and made three or fewer.

He was also 1-10 from beyond the arc. This made him only the ninth person to take at least ten three-pointers in a playoff game and make one or fewer. This game is also what likely cost him the Finals MVP.

With the Warriors third championship, Steph Curry joins a small group of eight players in the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) to win at least two MVPs and three championships in a four-year span.

*All of Russell’s years overlap with each other by definition of this, as does Gretzky’s 1987 season.

Players Sport Span MVPs Championships
Joe DiMaggio MLB 1938-41 2 3
Yogi Berra MLB 1951-54 2 3
Gordie Howe NHL 1952-55 2 3
Bill Russell NBA *1958-61 2 3
Bill Russell NBA *1961-64 3 4
Bill Russell NBA *1962-65 3 4
Bill Russell NBA *1963-66 2 4
Guy Lafleur NHL 1977-80 2 3
Wayne Gretzky NHL *1984-87 4 3
Wayne Gretzky NHL *1987-90 2 3
Michael Jordan NBA 1990-93 2 3
Michael Jordan NBA 1995-98 2 3
Steph Curry NBA 2015-18 2 3

*While this has never happened in the NFL and never took place in the AFL, it did happen in the AAFC (merged with NFL in 1949). In four years (1946-49), Otto Graham won 2 MVPs and 4 championships.

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Durant and LeBron’s historic performances

In game three of the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant dropped 43 points to give the Warriors an insurmountable 3-0 led over the Cavaliers. This game was the catalyst to him earning his second Finals MVP and a playoff career high for him.

His 43 points were the most by a Warriors player in the playoffs since Curry’s 44 point performance against the San Antonio Spurs in 2013. It was the most by a Warriors player in the Finals since 1967, when Rick Barry scored 44 in game six.

In game one of the NBA Finals, LeBron James dropped 51 points. This made LeBron only the 12th player (20th occurrence) since 1963-64 to score at 50 points in a playoff game. However, the Cavaliers lost the game in heartbreaking fashion due to some slight time mismanagement at the end of regulation before losing in overtime.

*Bob Pettit’s game log on Basketball-Reference has no assists tally for that game

Players Year (Game, Result) Series Result Points Rebounds Assists FG%
Elgin Baylor 1962 (Game 5, Win) Lost 4-3 61 22 1 47.80%
Michael Jordan 1993 (Game 4, Win) Won 4-2 55 8 4 56.80%
Rick Barry 1967 (Game 3, Win) Lost 4-2 55 12 5 45.80%
Jerry West 1969 (Game 1, Win) Lost 4-3 53 3 10 51.20%
LeBron James 2018 (Game 1, OT Loss) Lost 4-0 51 8 8 59.40%
Bob Pettit 1958 (Game 6, Win) Won 4-2 50 19 N/A* 55.90%

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Sources and Info: (All sources not listed here linked/mentioned in the article)

Featured Image: “2014 NBA Finals logo” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NBA_champions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_Most_Valuable_Player_Award

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hart_Memorial_Trophy

https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/mvp_cya.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-America_Football_Conference#Most_Valuable_Player

https://www.basketball-reference.com/ (Used to find the box score for players with over 50 points in NBA Finals)

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