Warriors Vs. Cavaliers Season Four: What You Need To Know About The NBA’s Toughest Rivalry

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors take the stage for the fourth straight year in the 2018 NBA Finals. Golden State has won twice in the past three years, and Cleveland hopes to even the series and cement LeBron James’ status as the greatest of all-time. The rivalry is real, and emotions will run at all-time highs.

The road to the big show wasn’t easy, either. For the first time since 1979, both conference finals went seven games. The Warriors and Cavs get to rest for a few days before taking to the court again. As you’ll see, this rivalry is one of the NBA’s best. Keep reading to find out how LeBron ignited his team to take the title in 2016.

No Other Teams Have Met in the Finals Four Straight Years

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The 2018 NBA Finals marks the first time in American sports history two teams will face each other for the fourth consecutive year. There have been plenty of trilogies, but never a quadrilogy.

In the NFL, the Lions and Browns met in the Championship game from 1952-54. The Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings battled it out from 1954-1956. And the New York Giants (now San Francisco) and New York Yankees traded titles from 1921-1923. Still, no Finals match-up has ever gone four years in a row. Being in a league of their own, the rivalry between the Cavaliers and the Warriors is undeniably one of the greatest of all-time.

The Teams First Met In 1970, But The Rivalry Didn’t Get Hot Until 2014

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The rivalry between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors is new. The teams met for the first time in 1970, with the Warriors barely edging out the Cavs 53-50 all-time until 2014. We saw both teams rising to extreme dominance at the same time and eventually meeting in the NBA Finals.

That year the Warriors, led by league MVP Stephen Curry, blindsided LeBron James and Cleveland. The rumor was that Akron-native LeBron returned to his home state to bring Cleveland its first professional championship since 1964. However, Golden State won in six games; an act James would avenge the next season.

LeBron James Leads The Cavs Back From 3-1, Crushing The Hearts Of Warriors Fans

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Entering game five of the 2016 NBA Finals, The Cavaliers looked down and out, trailing the Warriors 3-1. LeBron James, in perhaps the greatest feat of his career, refused to let the Cavaliers’ season die. He seemingly took over the last three games of the series, blocking shot after shot and nearly breaking his ankle. When the final whistle blew, and Cleveland won the title, LeBron broke down in tears, achieving what seemed impossible.

Perhaps this is the moment that truly ignited the rivalry. Golden State spent the next year deflecting jokes and trash talk about their collapse. LeBron was the King, but the Warriors fought back to reclaim the crown in 2017.

The Warriors Make Quick Work Of Cleveland In 2017

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The Warriors met the Cavaliers again in the 2017 NBA Finals, beating them in five games. Golden State took over the series and made Cleveland look old and tired. That offseason, the Warriors signed Kevin Durant, a move to make sure what happened in 2016 didn’t repeat itself. Durant was everything the Warriors asked for and was named the Finals MVP.

Cleveland spent the offseason trying to find a counterpunch to the Warriors. The chess match continued, and the Cavs traded for Isaiah Thomas, a small ball specialist who had blossomed with Boston the last two seasons. Stick around to see which Cavalier couldn’t take the rivalry and forced his way out.

Kyrie Irving Can’t Take the Heat of the Rivalry and Demands a Trade

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After losing the 2017 NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving forced the team to trade him. Reports claimed he wanted to prove he was more than just LeBron’s number two. Other analysts believe he wanted out of the rivalry. Cleveland demanded a king’s ransom for Irving and traded him to Boston for injured superstar Isaiah Thomas.

Initially, the move backfired. The team looked worn-out and slow and concern grew whether they would even make the playoffs. At the trade deadline, the Cavaliers’ GM traded away six players whose average age was 30-years-old for four players who averaged 26-years-old. Cleveland looked rejuvenated and powered their way through the rest of the season and the playoffs.

The Rivalry Pits Old School NBA Ideals Against New School

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Stephen Curry and the Warriors took the three-point shot to new heights in 2014. The Cavaliers fought back with ball control and midrange dominance. The difference in playing style revealed a battle of where the NBA used to be against the direction it was headed towards, full speed ahead.

LeBron James entered the NBA out of high school and spent fourteen seasons mastering every aspect of the game. He’s masterful midrange and is a three-point shooter who has no problem attacking the rim and racing back on defense. On the opposing team, Stephen Curry has the quickest release of all-time and broke the single-season three-point record in back-to-back seasons.

Trash Talk Shows the Mutual Disrespect The Teams Have For Each Other

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The best rivalries in professional sports are highlighted for fans by trash talk. We like nothing more than knowing our team hates the other just as much as us. For the last four years, the Warriors and Cavaliers have engaged in some of the best trash talk the NBA has ever seen.

In 2017, Draymond Green went after Cleveland and said, “I don’t pay much attention to anybody in Cleveland. They don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.” Cavs player Iman Shumpert then attacked the Warriors, “We supposed to hate them, and they supposed to hate us… we gon bust your [expletive]. Period.” Coming up, find out how LeBron put his ego aside to boost the Cavaliers in 2016.

The Cavs Won in 2016 Because They Wanted It More

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In the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers weren’t a better team than the Warriors. They just wanted the title more. Golden State spent the season chasing history. Instead of focusing on the postseason, Golden State zeroed in on the NBA record for single-season wins.

Despite being down 3-1, Cleveland didn’t lose hope. After game three, Assistant Coach Phil Handy gave a fiery speech. Two games later, GM David Griffin challenged the team to change their narrative as the “NBA Drama Kings.” The Cavs responded, taking games five, six, and seven to cement their place in history.

LeBron James Pushed the 2016 Cavaliers the Hardest

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Facing a 3-1 deficit, LeBron James put his ego on the line to motivate his team. In a text sent to everyone, he wrote, “No matter how we got to this point, we’re here now… Let it go, play hard, be focused, follow my lead, and I’ll make sure you get home for a Game 6.”

James averaged 36 points a game with 11.7 rebounds and 9.6 assists in the final three games. He got a triple-double in game seven and sealed the victory with a monster block on Andre Iguodala that is one of the greatest plays in NBA history. That offseason, the Warriors signed Kevin Durant, and as you’re about to see, he had his own score to settle with LeBron James.

Kevin Durant Gets His Revenge

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Joining the Warriors after the 2016 NBA Finals loss, Kevin Durant was seen as the missing piece in Golden State’s team. Durant, like the Warriors, had a vendetta against LeBron James, losing to The Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals. Durant spent the next five years on a failing Oklahoma City team, hoping to get back to the Finals and prove his worth.

When the rematch finally came for Durant, he was legendary. Not only did he win Finals MVP, he also shot the game-winning three-pointer over LeBron James. After the game, Durant called it a “passing the torch” moment. We wonder if the two will talk about it this year as LeBron tries to take the torch back.

Players Use Fashion As A Canvas For Trash Talk

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When LeBron James returned home to Cleveland with the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2016, he wore a t-shirt that said, “Ultimate Warrior.” Draymond Green noticed and waited a year to get his revenge. When the Warriors won the 2017 NBA Finals at home, Green changed into a shirt that said, “quickie.”

Before you let your mind wander, the shirt was a reference to Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers’ home court. He even used the same text and logo as the company in case anyone thought otherwise. The funny thing is, James probably knew what Green was planning, as the two are partners in Uninterrupted, a multimedia website based on athletes’ lives.

The Warriors Have Set The Pace Since 2015

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The Warriors’ best weapon when playing the Cavaliers is their ability to set the pace of the game. The best example came in game three of the 2015 NBA Finals. Matthew Dellavedova was forced to start for the Cavs and defend Stephen Curry. Not only did he harass Curry all night, he also exploded for 20 points offensively.

After the game, the adrenaline wore off, and his body gave up on him. Dellavedova was sent to a local clinic and hooked up to an IV all night. His game was questionable for the rest of the series, and Golden State refused to slow down. Next, learn how the 2015 loss made the Cavs obsess about the Warriors in 2016.

The Warriors Are In The Cavaliers’ Heads And On Their TVs

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The Warriors snuck into the Cavaliers’ heads after the 2015 NBA Finals. Cleveland made it a regular practice during the season to watch the games around the league in their locker room. When the Warriors played, they were put on the big screen. Word spread around the league about Cleveland’s obsession and labeled it as “Warriors paranoia.”

Cleveland then began turning the television off before the media was allowed to enter the locker room. The media never bought into the Cavs trying to change the narrative. When all was said and done, a little paranoia turned out to be a good thing for LeBron James and the Cavs.

Andre Iguodala Is The Warriors’ Secret Weapon

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Andre Iguodala has come off the bench for the Warriors since 2015. In that time he has established himself as the smartest player on the team and their secret weapon off the bench. Coming in as the sixth man in the 2015 NBA Finals, Iguodala put on a stranglehold on the Cavaliers and won the series MVP.

Iguodala was rewarded before the start of the 2017 NBA season with a three-year contract worth $48 million. That kind of money is usually reserved for starters. Kevin Durant also took a pay cut to make sure Golden State could re-sign one of their most important players.

The Cavaliers Fired Their Head Coach Midseason Because Of The Warriors

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In January 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt with a 28-11 record. They were the number one team in the conference, but tensions were brewing behind the scenes. Cleveland made the move after getting blown out by the Warriors at home on MLK Day.

The blowout served as a warning to Cleveland, who promoted Tyronn Lue to steer the ship back in the right direction. Lue relied heavily on LeBron James’ leadership to reunify the team. As the head coach of the Cavaliers, he is one of the only head coaches in history to win a title with an “interim” title. Keep reading to learn how the Cavs comeback nearly derailed the Warriors’ dynasty.

The Rivalry Almost Tore The Warriors Apart In 2016

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It’s not easy blowing a 3-1 lead. The Cavaliers had a four percent chance of winning the 2016 NBA Finals. As amazing as the Cavaliers played to come back, the Warriors melted down.

Draymond Green was suspended for hitting LeBron James in the groin. Stephen Curry was ejected from game six for throwing his mouthpiece and hitting the son of Cleveland’s owner. And Curry’s wife went on an epic Twitter tirade blaming the referees for rigging the series. It would have been easy for Golden State to crumble the next season. As history showed though, they didn’t.

The League Has Failed To Catch Up To The Cavs And Warriors

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As the Warriors turned the NBA into a three-point shooting competition, the rest of the league has struggled to keep up. Stacking their team with three-point shooters, the Rockets take 40 shots from beyond the arc each game. They pushed Golden State to seven games in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals before running out of gas.

The Celtics have come the closest to passing the Cavaliers in the East. Playing shut down defense, Boston relies on mixing midrange shots with three-point shooting just like the Cavs. A very young team, they’re looking over Cleveland’s shoulder and could rise to dominance as soon as next season. Focusing on this season, here are a few storylines to watch during the 2018 NBA Finals!

Cleveland Are Massive Underdogs In 2018

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are 12-point underdogs entering the 2018 NBA Finals. They find themselves once again relying entirely on LeBron James. Without the King, it’s entirely possible Cleveland, headlined by Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr., wouldn’t have finished the regular season above .500.

In 2017, LeBron James had a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. He averaged a triple-double a game and still lost. If Cleveland can beat the Warriors this year, it will be considered the greatest feat of his career. The good news for Cleveland is the Warriors are not playing their best basketball right now.

The Warriors Must Play Better To Win in 2018

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The Golden State Warriors have failed throughout the regular and postseason to play their best basketball. At times they have looked uninterested in playing altogether. Against the Houston Rockets in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Warriors trailed by 17 points after 12 minutes.

Similarly, after the first quarter in game seven, head coach Steve Kerr said it was the worst basketball he’d ever seen his team play. The Warriors were the best third quarter team in the NBA, but we find it hard to believe James will allow his team to go 7 for 44 from beyond the arc in the most important of the season like Houston just did.

Injuries Are Playing A Big Role For Both Teams In 2018

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Entering the 2018 NBA Finals, both the Cavaliers and Warriors are dealing with injuries to key players. Kevin Love is the Cavs’ second best player and is going through concussion protocol. If he can’t get cleared before game one things could get ugly fast for Cleveland.

On the other side of the court, the Warriors could be without Andre Iguodala for the entire finals if he can’t get proper treatment on his bruised knee. He’s not only the Warriors’ smartest player, but he’s also their best LeBron defender and emotional stabilizer. No one ever wants injuries to play a significant role in a championship, but that’s exactly what’s happening in 2018.