HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Time for the rematch.
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are back in The Finals. One team won a record 73 games in the regular season, but faced elimination three times in the playoffs. The other fired its coach in January, but cruised through the first three rounds.
All that doesn’t matter at this point. No matter how they got here, the Warriors and Cavs are back where they were a year ago. And the next 4-7 games will determine if Golden State finishes off its historical season the right way or if LeBron James finally brings a title to Cleveland.
This is the 14th time that the same two teams have met in The Finals in consecutive years. The team that won the first meeting has repeated in six of the previous 13 occurrences, while the team that lost the first time has gotten revenge seven times.
Going back to Game 4 of last year’s Finals, the Warriors have won five straight games (by an average of 16.4 points) against Cleveland. But this is a different Cavs team than the Warriors have seen before. The East champs have taken things to a new level offensively, with a potent starting lineup (different than the one Golden State faced in the regular season) and a second unit that has been impossible to guard.
Through three rounds, the Cavs have been the more prolific 3-point shooting team with the more efficient offense. They’ve been playing a much different style than what we saw in last year’s Finals. And both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are healthy this time. Of course, the Warriors found a nice rhythm from beyond the arc in coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference finals.
The Cavs have the rest advantage. The Warriors have home-court advantage. There will be plenty of narratives to follow over the next few weeks, but the 2016 NBA title will be determined on the floor.
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for The Finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more.
Golden State Warriors (73-9)
First round: Beat Houston in five games.
Conf. semis: Beat Portland in five games.
Conf. finals: Beat Oklahoma City in seven games.
Pace: 101.7 (1)
OffRtg: 109.8 (2)
DefRtg: 100.9 (5)
NetRtg: +8.9 (2)
Warriors playoff notes:
- Have been the best fourth-quarter team in the playoffs, having outscored their opponents by 16.4 points per 100 possessions in the fourth.
- Have recorded assists on 62.0 percent of their baskets, the highest rate in the playoffs. They also lead the postseason with 7.9 secondary assists per game. After averaging 336.9 passes per game through the first two rounds, they averaged only 310.3 against Oklahoma City, but that still led the conference finals by a wide margin.
- Have shot 51 percent and 13-for-24 from 3-point range with the score within five in the last five minutes. Stephen Curry is 9-for-12 on clutch threes, with six more than any other player in the postseason. Klay Thompson is 1-for-6.
- Curry has shot 51.4 percent from mid-range, the best mark among players with at least 35 mid-range attempts in the playoffs.
- Are a plus-117 in 639 minutes with Draymond Green on the floor and a minus-8 in 182 minutes with him on the bench. He has contested 271 total shots, most in the postseason.
- Opponents have shot 38.1 percent at the rim when Green has been there to protect it. That ranks as the fourth best rim protection number among players who have defended at least 5.0 shots per game at the rim (best among those still playing).
- Thompson leads the playoffs with 23 corner 3-pointers (on 46 attempts). Sixteen of the 23 have come from the right corner. He’s made 22 more catch-and-shoot 3-pointers than anybody else in the playoffs.
- Thompson’s 11 threes in Game 6 in Oklahoma City were the most ever made in a playoff game.
- The Warriors’ “Death Lineup” – Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Green – was a minus-41 in 19 minutes in Games 3 and 4 of the conference finals, but is a plus-40 in its other 53 postseason minutes. In the regular season and playoffs combined, it has outscored opponents by a tally of 141-109 per 48 minutes.
- See Warriors-Rockets preview for regular season notes, Warriors-Blazers preview for first round notes, and Warriors-Thunder preview for notes through the conference semis.
Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25)
Cavs playoff notes:
- The last team that was as efficient offensively through the conference finals was the 1986-87 Lakers, who scored 117.8 points per 100 possessions over the first three rounds.
- Offensive efficiency has gone down with each quarter, from 123.3 points per 100 possessions in the first to 106.5 in the fourth. But their defense has improved with each quarter, from 110.4 points allowed per 100 possessions in the first to just 94.2 in the fourth. They have a NetRtg of plus-12.3 points per 100 possessions or better in all four periods.
- Have averaged 23.1 drives per game, fewest in the playoffs.
- Have taken 40.8 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the highest mark in the playoffs and up from 35.2 percent in the regular season.
- Have shot 43.4 percent on those threes, the best mark in the playoffs and up from 36.2 percent in the regular season.
- Their 25 3-pointers in Game 2 vs. Atlanta were the most ever made in game, playoffs or regular season.
- J.R. Smith (46.2 percent), Irving (45.6 percent) and Love (44.6 percent) rank first, second and fifth in 3-point percentage among 21 players who have attempted at least 50 threes in the playoffs. Channing Frye (26-for-45, 57.8 percent) would rank first with five more attempts.
- Starting lineup has outscored opponents by 21.4 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among five-man units that have played at least 100 minutes.
- Bench unit of Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, James and Frye has outscored opponents by 46.6 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among five-man units that have played at least 50 minutes.
- Have outscored their opponents by 17.3 points per 100 possessions with James on the floor and have been outscored by 1.1 with him on the bench. That differential of 18.4 is the fifth biggest on-off-court differential among 65 players who have logged at least 200 playoff minutes and the biggest among those who are still playing.
- Frye’s effective field goal percentage of 81.8 percent is the best mark among 86 players who have attempted at least 50 shots in the playoffs.
- Smith has taken 86 percent (106 of 123) of his shots from 3-point range, the highest rate in the postseason by a wide margin.
- Love (19-for-41) and Smith (17-for-28) rank second and third (behind Thompson) in corner 3-pointers in the playoffs.
- Love has shot 11-for-34 (32 percent) in the restricted area, the worst mark among players with 25 shots there.
- Averaged 40.7 points in the paint in the conference finals after averaging just 33.5 in the first round and 28.0 in the conference semis.
- James leads the playoffs with 9.4 shots in the restricted area per game and 14.3 points in the paint per game. He shot 82 percent (46-for-56) in the restricted area in the conference finals.
- James leads the playoffs with 59 assists on 3-pointers (to seven different teammates), 31 of them on corner threes.
- Tristan Thompson has grabbed 17.7 percent of available offensive rebounds while he’s been on the floor, the best offensive rebounding percentage in the playoffs.
- According to SportVU, the Cavs have scored 1.31 points per possession when Thompson has set a ball screen for Irving, the best mark among 43 combinations that have run at least 50 ball screens. Irving/Love ranks third at 1.26 points per possession.
- Opponents have shot 65.2 percent at the rim when Love has been there to protect it. That ranks as the worst rim protection number among players who have defended at least 5.0 shots per game at the rim.
- See Cavs-Pistons preview for regular season notes, Cavs-Hawks preview for first round notes, and Cavs-Raptors preview for notes through the conference semis.
- Barnes missed the Christmas game for Golden State. Frye wasn’t with Cleveland for either meeting, but Anderson Varejao (now a Warrior) was with the Cavs for both, playing 17 minutes in the January game. Timofey Mozgov, who has played only garbage time over Cleveland’s last 12 playoff games, started both games against Golden State.
- The 92.3 points per 100 possessions the Cavs scored were the fewest they scored against any opponent.
- The Cavs’ 3.0 fast break points per game was also their lowest mark against all opponents.
- The Warriors shot 23-for-40 (10-for-17 from 3-point range) in the first quarters, winning them 28-19 and 34-21.
- The Warriors “Death Lineup” didn’t play in either game.
- The Cavs’ current starting lineup played just three minutes (in the Christmas game).
- Green averaged 19.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists.
- Shaun Livingston shot 10-for-11 (8-for-9 in the Christmas game).
- James’ minus-43 over the two games was his second worst plus-minus in a regular season series in his career, only trumped by a minus-44 in three games vs. Boston in 2011-12.
- Irving, James and Love combined to shoot 3-for-25 from 3-point range. James (0-for-4) and Love (0-for-2) also missed all their shots from mid-range.
- Love’s 6.5 points per game was his lowest scoring average against all opponents.
Notes from the 2015 Finals:
- Love did not play. Irving was lost to a knee injury in overtime of Game 1. The Cavs’ seven-man rotation after that included Mozgov and James Jones.
- The difference between the games Golden State won and the games Cleveland won were on the Warriors’ end of the floor, where they scored 109.3 points per 100 possessions in their four wins and just 94.7 in their two losses. The Cavs scored less than a point per possession in all six games.
- Over the six games, the Warriors were a plus-4 through three quarters and a plus-39 in the fourth quarter (plus-33) and overtime (plus-6). Curry (12-for-24), Thompson (5-11) and Iguodala (9-for-14) combined to shoot 53 percent on fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
- The Warriors were a plus-62 in 222 minutes with Iguodala on the floor and a minus-19 in 76 minutes with him on the bench. James shot just 38 percent with Iguodala on the floor.
- James averaged 45.8 minutes per game and took more shots (196) than the next three Cavs combined (179), while also accounting for 56 percent of his team’s assists. For the series, he shot just 24-for-90 (27 percent) from outside the paint.
- The Warriors’ “Death Lineup,” which started the last three games, outscored the Cavs 154-126 in 70 minutes, allowing Cleveland to scored just 88.0 points per 100 possessions.