May 14, 2021
“BLOCKED BY JAMES!” Announcer Mike Breen of ESPN exclaimed as LeBron James makes a superhuman effort on defense late in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. He wills the Cavaliers to stay within contention against the newly crowned all-time record holders for most wins in a single season, the Golden State Warriors. The highly respected Warriors were led by none other than the NBA’s first-ever unanimous Most Valuable Player (MVP) Stephen Curry in this 2016 NBA Finals.1 Years ago, James had promised the city of Cleveland that he would end their 52-year championship drought, and now is his chance to fulfill that promise.2
Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs is considered one of the most important games of the season because it dictates who has the momentum going into the rest of the series. In Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors were victorious and took a 1-0 lead in their hometown over the Cavaliers in what was considered an “off-night” shooting performance from their star players Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Although Draymond Green finished with an amazing all-around stat line of 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists to go along with 4 steals, teammates Curry and Thompson did not hold their end of the bargain. They combined for an unimpressive 20 points on 8-27 shooting from the field. Most fans thought the Cavaliers were bringing this one home because of the poor shooting performance from the Splash Brothers (Curry and Thompson) and the stellar night from LeBron James. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists. Kevin Love had 17 points and 13 rebounds, recording an impressive double-double, while Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 26 points on a not ideal 7-of-22 shooting. Cleveland’s bench only added 10 points as the Cavaliers’ Big Three combined for 66 of the team’s 89 points. The fans were too quick to count the Warriors out, credit to the Warriors’ bench on a great performance, especially Shaun Livingston who contributed a playoff career-high 20 points on an extremely efficient night, finishing 8-of-10 from the field. The bench scored 45 points helping the defending champs create a double digit deficit for the Cavaliers, and secure a Game 1 victory with a score of 104-95.3
In Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors unexpectedly embarrassed the Cavaliers with a 33 point margin in a runaway victory of 110-77. Golden State relied on Draymond Green‘s hot shooting hand as he put up 28 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 5-of-11 from three-point range. Klay Thompson‘s attempt to redeem himself after Game 1’s poor performance came with 17 points and 4-of-8 long range shooting in a concentrated third quarter burst from Thompson, Then the Warriors blew open a double-digit advantage in the third quarter to seal off the humiliation. Despite Curry facing foul trouble for most of the night and only finishing with 18 points, a very productive 7-of-11 shooting, and 9 rebounds, the Golden State’s Big Three put the game away in the second half, mostly with Curry on the bench. LeBron James led the Cavs with 19 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 7 turnovers while teammate Kyrie Irving struggled with 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting and Kevin Love contributing only five points, 2-of-7 shooting, before having to leave the game in the third quarter with a concussion. The injury unfortunately helped the Warriors for the remainder of the game causing them to out-rebound the Cavaliers by 12. Love’s injury was horrible news for the city of Cleveland as they were looking to bounce back from Game 1, but then trailed down 2-0 in the series putting the Cavaliers in a very tough spot for Game 3. Fans prayed for a speedy recovery, as Love was a key contributor for rebounds.4
In Game 3, the Cleveland Cavaliers proved to everyone that this series was far from over by destroying the Golden State Warriors in a blowout victory with a score of 120-90. Kyrie Irving put on a show, finishing with 30 points and 8 assists on 12-of-25 shooting. LeBron James had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists on 14-of-26 shooting, while J.R. Smith had a great night putting up 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting from three-point range. Tristan Thompson helped take some of the pressure off of Love who was coming back from an injury; he was a key contributor who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, 7 of which came on the offensive glass. Fans were disappointed with the Warriors, as league MVP Stephen Curry reverted back to his Game 1 struggles. He finished with just 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting, making only 3 of his 9 three-pointers and committing 6 turnovers along with 4 fouls. Analysts and fans were disheartened worldwide from the play of Curry. It seemed to most that he was “choking” under the spotlight, when it mattered most, because he was putting up numbers far less than his regular season averages and it seemed to be finally taking a toll on his team. Harrison Barnes tried carrying some of the slack in Game 3, finishing with 18 points and 8 rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting. Klay Thompson had another shameful night scoring 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting while Andre Iguodala chipped in 11 points. Game 3 was a huge win for the city of Cleveland and it sent a message to the Warriors that this series isn’t going to be a walk in the park like the media assumed after Game 2. The Cavaliers were looking to even the series up in Game 4 as it sat 2-1 in favor of the Warriors.5
The Warriors were coming from a degrading loss in Game 3. Fans were excited to see how Golden State would respond making Game 4 a very crucial game in this series. Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 34 points on 14-of-28 shooting while LeBron was just short of another triple double chipping in 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists to go with 3 steals, 2 blocks and an unfortunate 7 turnovers. Kevin Love was back and added 11 points off the bench and the Cavs only shot 6-of-25 from deep while Golden State made 17 of their 36 triples, a NBA Finals single game record. The Splash Brothers finally seemed like themselves, putting on a clinic, combining for 63 points and 11 three-pointers. Curry finally surpassed his regular season scoring average with 38 points, going 11-for-25 from the field and 7-for-13 from three-point range. Thompson joined the league MVP in reaching the 20-point mark for the first time in the series with 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Although the Warriors came out on top with a 108-97 victory to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the championship round, Draymond Green committed a flagrant foul earning himself a suspension for Game 5, which will put the defending champs at a serious disadvantage.6 James and the Cavaliers must capitalize on this rare chance, because if they can’t, it’ll mean going home in defeat and LeBron’s legacy will be stained forever, let alone his disappointing millions of fans. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were standing in a place called “no man’s land” with the weight of Cleveland on his back because no team in the history of the NBA Finals has ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit, especially not against the highly respected Warriors, which seemed like they were breaking a new record every game. Now that their stars seem to have gotten their “mojo” back, the media and fans seemed to be writing off James and the city of Cleveland, but some still have hope, especially because of Green’s suspension. The Warriors were looking to close this rollercoaster of a series off going into Game 5 while James and the Cavaliers were hanging by a thread, doing everything they could to help fulfill the promise of ending the title drought for the city of Cleveland. It’s going to take a historic performance for them to pull it off.7
In Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers duo consisting of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving put on memorable performances against a Draymond-less team, seizing their chance at living to fight another day. The Cavaliers emerged victorious behind LeBron scoring 41 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals on 16-of-30 shooting alongside Kyrie who had 41 points and 6 assists on 17-of-24 shooting. They combined for 82 points and 9-of-15 shooting from three-point range, an unbelievably efficient night for the Cavaliers stars. The Cavs only got 30 points out of the rest of the supporting cast, but it was enough to overcome 37 points from Klay Thompson and 25 points from Stephen Curry and force a Game 6 back in Cleveland. Without Draymond Green available to help Golden State’s defense, the Warriors couldn’t contain Kyrie Irving as he was putting the game away with a personal 7-0 run late in the fourth quarter. It especially seemed like nothing was going for the Warriors this game when starting center Andrew Bogut got hurt early in the third quarter after he landed awkwardly on a block against J.R. Smith. Bogut was diagnosed with a left knee sprain and carried off the court. He later on did not return to the game.8 Everybody said it’s going to take a historic effort from the Cavaliers to survive and they did just that. Fans and media critics at the time were wondering if this victory was just a fluke because of the absence of Green and the second half injury of Bogut. The Cavaliers now had to prove themselves.9
In Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals, James and the Cavaliers needed another incredible night to fend off the Warriors to force a “win or go home” Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It was truly a battle, but the Cavaliers came out victorious once again behind a monstrous performance from James. He put up yet another amazing 41 point game to go with 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks. James was sensational for his second straight Finals game, burying every Warriors comeback attempt and putting his Cavs on the brink of winning their first NBA title. Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavaliers while Tristan Thompson recorded a huge 15 points and 16 boards supporting James’ huge night. Despite Stephen Curry finishing with 30 points on 6-of-13 shooting from three-point range, the Warriors star fouled out and the supporting cast failed to step up on the road in the Warriors’ back to back losses, which was starting to look like a losing streak. Klay Thompson added 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting, while Leandro Barbosa was the only other Warrior to reach double figures with 14 points. Coming off his suspension, Draymond Green finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. James and Cavaliers had now officially sent a message that the previous game was no fluke. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit and somehow James keeps putting up historic numbers in efforts to create history itself. The series was now currently tied at 3-3 as the teams traveled to Oracle to face off in their last game of the NBA Finals. James had come so far against what seemed like the unbeatable Warriors at first. He was one victory away from delivering his promise to the city of Cleveland and making history, all while the Golden State Warriors were trying their best to not choke the 3-1 series lead they originally had, as that would be quite embarrassing. Game 7 was a win-or-go home.10
Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. This game was for all the marbles. In an unbelievable win for LeBron James, he delivered Cleveland’s first major sports championship in 52 years and first ever NBA Title. Attempting to become the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 deficit and win the title, the Cleveland Cavaliers followed their leader to the first championship in franchise history, earning a 93-89 victory in the decisive Game 7 on the road. Coming off a historic 73-win season, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors could do nothing but watch as LeBron James took over down the stretch with clutch plays on both ends of the floor, sending them home empty-handed. Finishing with a triple double of 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals on 9-of-24 shooting, James’ chase down block famously remembered as “BLOCKED BY JAMES!” late in the fourth quarter preserved Cleveland’s tie before Kyrie Irving drilled a contested step-back three with 53 seconds remaining to put the Cavs ahead for good. Irving finished with 26 points and 6 rebounds, J.R. Smith helped out with 12 points and Kevin Love had a great contribution on the glass, finishing with 9 points and 14 boards. Draymond Green did his best to a make up for his series-changing Game 5 suspension, dropping 32 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals on 11-of-15 shooting, but he couldn’t make up for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, combining for only 31 points on 12-of-36 shooting from the field and 6-of-24 shooting from deep. The Splash Brothers and Golden State Warriors fell short of being back to back champions while LeBron was on top of the world, collapsing in tears as the final buzzer sounded. He did it, he finally did it and fulfilled his promise of ending the title drought in the city of Cleveland, his hometown. The media and critics worldwide were calling it the best comeback in sports history as no team had ever come back from a series deficit of 3-1 let alone against one of the best teams in NBA history. It was truly remarkable, a superhuman effort as LeBron chased down Iguodala for the infamous block and Irving sealing the game with his clutch three pointer. The warriors couldn’t do anything about it. They tried their best, but their best wasn’t enough. They are now known as the team that had the greatest choke job in sports history. They said it was going to take a historic effort from the Cavaliers and James, and they delivered. It was the greatest finals matchup the NBA has ever seen.11
2016 NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors
My name is Haik Tatevosyan and I am a student athlete here at St. Mary’s University, Class of 2024, majoring in Criminology. I play basketball for the Rattlers and love expressing my insight on major sports events. Hope you enjoy!Author Portfolio Page
Nice article, I believe you did a fantastic job conveying that emotion while still providing a logistical and informational side to the paper. I like how you chose this series and you covered the greatest performances in NBA finals history. This incredible comeback was led by LeBron James, who solidified his legacy as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The Cavaliers not only ended their 52-year championship drought, but LeBron James also delivered on his pledge to bring a championship to Cleveland. The heartwarming story of LeBron James winning his third championship in his hometown and expressing his emotions during the post-game press conference demonstrated how important this title was to him.
As I was reading this article I could almost see the players running up and down the court as they compete for that coveted NBA championship. I could not help but realize that LeBron had an amazing game every night, win or loss. His consistency is what makes him so great and which ultimately lead to him winning. Though I cannot say that the win was easy, the Warriors also had major talent and they showed how good they were by putting up a fight each quarter of each game. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson who are some of the best shooters in league showed it in game 3 and showed why they were the best team in the league by breaking the Finals record. Despite the records broken and the points scored, at the end of the day the Warriors had 3 wins and Cavaliers had 4 wins. It was not about the stats, the records, the efficiency, or the coaching, it simply was who wanted it more.