Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Champions! Cavs vs Warriors Behind the Box Score

The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors and win the NBA Championship!

Golden State Warriors 89
Cleveland Cavaliers 93
[Box Score]


Champions!!! 52 years of waiting, and the wait is finally over. In perhaps the only way possible for something like this to happen, the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to come back from 3-1 in the NBA Finals to win the Championship. And they did it against the Golden State Warriors team that set the NBA regular season record for wins with a 73-9 record.

Yes, the Warriors, who lost only two games at home all season long, had to believe another title was a foregone conclusion when they won Game 4 to go up 3-1 with two more games at home. The odds could not have been more against Cleveland. There is no better way to end the Championship drought than this. But it seemed impossible.

But it was a Draymond Green suspension that perhaps forever changed the fate of this series, this team, and the fans of Cleveland. Building momentum off a Game 5 win in Golden State and then coming home and taking care of business, the Cavaliers gave themselves a chance. One game to win it all. 

With two minutes left in Game 7, the series was tied. It wasn’t just that the game was tied, or the overall series was tied 3-3, but the points for both teams were dead even. It was two minutes to change history and erase five decades of misery, frustration, sorrow, and anger.

The teams went back and forth and everyone was playing defense out of their minds. Offense was hard to find. And then, with a minute left in the game, Kyrie Irving had the ball in his hand with Steph Curry on him. Irving dribbled on the right side, faked a quick jab, and then pulled off a step back three and hit the biggest shot of his life and the biggest shot in Cleveland basketball history. The shot went in, and Cleveland was up three. On the ensuing possession, with the Cavaliers still up three, LeBron James went up for a dunk but Draymond Green met him with a hard foul. James came crashing down on his wrist and writhed on the ground in obvious pain. A part of me felt the thought “not like this” creeping into my head.

But James was OK. He hit one of two free throws to give the Cavaliers a four point lead with 10 seconds left. After a couple last second misses from the Warriors, it was over. It was all over. Everything Cleveland has been through over the last 52 years was all gone. None of it mattered anymore. The Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA Champions!

This is the part where normally we go into the numbers. But come on, does anyone care about the numbers? This is so much bigger than the numbers. Fine, here you go. Draymond Green went 5 of 5 from three-point range in the first half. The Warriors made 10 threes in the first half while the Cavaliers only made one. Ye the Cavaliers were somehow only down 7. Kyrie Irving had 26 points, including a huge 12 points in the third quarter to help bring the Cavaliers back and build a lead. Kevin Love, so maligned this series, grabbed a team high 14 rebounds to make an impact and was a team-high +19. And LeBron James was sensational as always with the 7th Finals triple-double of his career (and the third in Game 7 of the Finals history) with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists to go along with three blocked shots including one monster chase down block on Andre Iguodala to save the season.

There. There are your numbers. But nobody cares about the numbers. We call this “Behind the Box Score”, and being true to that title, we have to look at the big picture. 2007 was the first time the franchise was in the NBA Finals. 2015 was the first time the franchise won an NBA Finals game. And 2016 is the first time the franchise won a Championship.

Writing these words is a bigger struggle than I ever could have imagined. How can you possibly synthesize all these feelings and emotions into simple words on a page? As the game ended and the initial burst of uncontrollable joy gave way to a collapse of uncontrollable tears, one thing was clear … everything is different now.

LeBron James mentioned in his post game presser that he was thinking about Ernest Byner’s fumble, John Elway’s drive, Jose Mesa blowing the save (he forgot about Michael Jordan’s shot, of course, as well as the Indians blowing a 3-1 ALCS lead against the Red Sox and the Browns moving). And as I sit here, there’s no more pain talking about those moments. I don’t care. Show your misery montage all you want now. Because now that story ends in the most amazing sports story in Cleveland history.

You can think back to LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland as well, and reminisce on the emotions of that night. The feelings that night were similarly indescribable, but polar opposite. That anger that was once so real and so visceral, now seems almost silly. That’s what this moment is all about. It’s not just erasing all that pain, either, it’s the elation of knowing our team accomplished something that has never been done before. I said before the series that there was no team I would rather beat for the Championship than these Warriors, but that I thought there was no team that would be harder to beat. And now it’s real. 

It’s going to be a dizzying night for Cleveland. But take a moment, whether you read this on this night or later in the morning, and really savor this moment and let it in. Don’t take this for granted. Remember this team, and these players: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, Mo Williams, Matthew Dellavedova, Channing Frye, Timofey Mozgov, James Jones, and Dahntay Jones. Because this night isn’t just about us as fans. This is also about these players who overcame so much adversity, and the narratives, and a coaching change ... all of it. They overcame it all, they sacrificed for each other, and they became Cleveland sports legends forever.

LeBron James executed the blocked shot that saved the game, and Kyrie Irving made the shot that won it. And for once, those were the moments that stood. There was no unthinkable loss on the horizon, no reversal of fortune. This was Cleveland's night.

Enjoy this, Cleveland. This is our moment. Together.

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