As the basketball world anxiously awaits the third consecutive Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals showdown, we take a look back at the past two Finals meetings between the two teams, ranking the most memorable moments from the Warriors' win in 2015 (4-2) and the Cavaliers' win in 2016 (4-3).
10. The mouthpiece
The date: June 16, 2016 (Game 6; Warriors up 3-2)
The moment: After picking up his sixth foul late in the fourth quarter of the Warriors' loss, Stephen Curry threw his mouthpiece towards the stands. It hit the son of one of the Cavs' minority owners sitting courtside, and Curry was ejected for the first time in his career after picking up a technical foul.
The significance: To say this moment had any impact on Golden State losing the series would be farfetched, but it was a memorable one nonetheless. Curry, whose calm, cool and collected demeanor makes him one of the world's most beloved athletes, showed a side of himself rarely seen.
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The quote: "He had every right to be upset. He's the MVP of the league, he gets six fouls called on him, three of them were absolutely ridiculous," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. " ... I'm happy he threw his mouthpiece (laughs). He should be upset."
Curry gets his 6th foul, throws mouthpiece at a fan, snaps at the ref & then apologizes to the fan pic.twitter.com/uhSTYC5twV— NBA RETWEET (@RTNBA) June 17, 2016
9. The unlikely hero
The date: June 9, 2015 (Game 3; Series tied 1-1)
The moment: Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova drew contact from Curry and made a circus 15-footer off the glass. He converted the three-point play, giving the Cavs an 84-80 lead with 2:27 left. A little over a minute later, he laid out for a loose ball, was fouled, and knocked down the ensuing free throws to put Cleveland up by seven.
The significance: Filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving, Dellavedova, who fought through dehydration and a trip to the hospital to be a difference-maker for Cleveland throughout the series, finished the game with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists, and the Cavaliers won 96-91.
The quote: "He gives us everything that he has, and we all appreciate it as his brothers in the lineup beside him," LeBron James said.
8. The trash talk
The date: June 12, 2016 (prior to Game 5; Warriors up 3-1)
The moment: After Draymond Green was issued a one-game suspension for his altercation with James in Game 4 (see No. 3 below), Klay Thompson took a jab at James for taking the incident personally. "I guess his feelings just got hurt," Thompson said.
The significance: James was made aware of Thompson's comments in a press conference, responded with a laugh, and proceeded to carry the Cavaliers to the most historic comeback in Finals history. He's 15-1 in the playoff ever since.
The quote: "Oh my goodness. I'm not going to comment on what Klay said, because I know where it can go from this sit-in," James said. " ... At the end of the day, we've got to go out, we've got to show up and play better tomorrow night. And if we don't, then they're going to be back-to-back champions."
7. The lineup change
The date: June 11, 2015 (Game 4; Cavaliers up 2-1)
The moment: After losing Games 2 and 3, the Warriors decided to take a small-ball approach, inserting forward Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup for center Andrew Bogut.
The significance: Iguodala scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds and helped hold James to 7-for-22 shooting. The Warriors won, 103-82, and opted to keep Iguodala in the starting lineup for the remainder of the series. He went on to win Finals MVP.
The quote: "He's our most experienced player and he's one of the smartest players I've ever been around," Kerr said. "The guy is brilliant at both ends."
6. The chef
The date: June 14, 2015 (Game 5; Series tied 2-2)
The moment: After a flurry of ankle-breaking dribbles, Curry hit a step-back three-pointer over Dellavedova, giving the Warriors a 10-point lead with 2:43 to go.
The significance: Curry, who had been held in check for a good portion of the Finals leading up to this game, finished with 37 points on 13-of-23 shooting and led the Warriors to a 104-91 win. This shot, in particular, was one of his most jaw-dropping moments of the postseason.
The quote: "I thought he was great," James said. "You tip your hat off to a guy like that. He made seven threes. I don't know, were any of them not contested, hand-in-face, falling, step-back off the dribble?"
5. The 82-point game
The date: June 13, 2016 (Game 5; Warriors up 3-1)
The moment: Faced with a must-win Game 5, James and Irving each poured in 41 points to carry the Cavs to a 112-97 win.
The significance: Not only did their 82-point outburst keep the Cavaliers alive, it was the first time in Finals history that two teammates scored 40 or more points in the same game.
The quote: "That was special," James told ESPN's Doris Burke on the postgame broadcast. "That will go down in the all-time greatest performances in Finals history by my point guard. He was spectacular tonight."
4. The injury
The date: June 4, 2015 (Game 1)
The moment: With 2:23 left in overtime of Golden State's 108-100 victory, Irving injured his left knee trying to change direction while driving toward the basket.
The significance: Irving's diagnosis — a fractured left kneecap — required surgery. It kept him out for the remainder of the Finals, which was another detrimental blow to a Cavaliers team already missing Kevin Love, who injured his shoulder in the first round.
The quote: "Dealing with injuries all throughout the playoffs is definitely tough," Irving said. "It's a test to your will, but for me to go out like that, fractured kneecap, out three to four months, it's tough to definitely process."
3. The suspension
The date: June 10, 2016 (Game 4; Warriors up 2-1)
The moment: With the Warriors minutes away from taking a 3-1 series lead, James and Green got tangled up near half court. Green fell to the floor, James tried to step over Green as he was down, and Green retaliated by swinging in James' direction.
The significance: The Warriors won the game, but two days after the incident, Green — who had already accumulated three flagrant foul points during the playoffs — was given a fourth flagrant point, triggering an automatic one-game suspension, per league rules. He was forced to miss the potential closeout Game 5.
The quote: "Unfortunate situation, him getting caught with LeBron on top of him," Curry said. "I don't think his intention was to try to hurt anybody. He was protecting himself."
2. The block
The date: June 19, 2016 (Game 7; Series tied 3-3)
The moment: With under two minutes to play, James came barreling down the court for a chasedown block on Iguodala, sending what could have been a game-changing layup off the backboard and into Cleveland's possession.
The significance: Both teams struggled to score in the final minutes of the game, and had Iguodala made the layup, the Warriors would have taken a 91-89 lead with 1:51 left.
The quote: "I'm like, 'Man, that (expletive) was so dope to me, too.' I was a fan," Iguodala told ESPN months later. "That (expletive) was amazing. When he blocked it, I was like, 'Damn, somebody got shot.' I thought it was funny. Somebody just made a good play. What you want me to do?"
1. The shot
The date: June 19, 2016 (Game 7; Series tied 3-3)
The moment: With under a minute to go and the score knotted at 89, Irving took a couple of hesitation dribbles, stepped back and let a three-pointer fly over the outstretched arm of Curry. His shot splashed home, giving Cleveland a three-point lead.
The significance: The three-point lead was all the Cavaliers needed. Golden State didn't score again, and when the final buzzer sounded, Cleveland's 52-year championship drought came to an end and Irving's shot was cemented as one of the most monumental moments in Finals history.
The quote: "All I was thinking about in the back of my mind was Mamba mentality," said Irving, referencing the killer instinct of Kobe Bryant. "Just Mamba mentality, that's all I was thinking."
"All I was thinking at the end of the game was mamba mentality." - Kyrie pic.twitter.com/ooQFNc9X2w— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) June 20, 2016
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