2015 NBA Finals
The wordmark of the NBA Finals (2003–2017)
(Golden State Warriors)
|Eastern Finals||Cavaliers defeated Hawks, 4–0|
|Western Finals||Warriors defeated Rockets, 4–1|
The 2015 NBA Finals was the championship series of the 2014–15 season of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the conclusion of the season's playoffs. The Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors defeated the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers in six games (4–2) for the Warriors' first title in 40 years and their fourth in franchise history, becoming the first team since the 1990–91 Chicago Bulls to win a championship without any prior Finals experience from any player on their roster. Golden State's Andre Iguodala was named the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP).
The Warriors were led by 2014–15 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Stephen Curry, while the Cavaliers featured four-time league MVP LeBron James. Both teams entered the series with title droughts of four decades, with the Cavaliers having never won a title since their 1970–71 inception and the Warriors' last title having been in 1975. This was also the first time that both participating teams had first-year head coaches since the inaugural league finals in 1947, when the NBA was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). It was the fifth consecutive finals appearance for James who played for the Miami Heat the previous four seasons, making him the first NBA player since the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1960s to achieve this accomplishment.
James also became the first player in NBA Finals history to lead both teams in points, assists, and rebounds for the entire series. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists for the series, although he shot 39.8% throughout the series. Kevin Love missed the entire series due to an injury, and Kyrie Irving missed the final five games of the series due to an injury in Game 1. For the second straight year, the Finals was played in the 2–2–1–1–1 format (Games 1, 2, and 5 were at Golden State, games 3, 4, and 6 were at Cleveland. Had it been necessary, Game 7 would have been held at Golden State). The series began on June 4, 2015, ending on June 16. In the United States, it was televised on ABC and in Canada on TSN.
The Cavaliers entered the 2014–15 season after firing Mike Brown and replacing him with David Blatt as head coach, signing free agent forward LeBron James, and trading for forward Kevin Love. James previously played for Cleveland from 2003 to 2010, leading the Cavaliers to their only previous Finals appearance in 2007. James then played for the Miami Heat from 2010 to 2014, leading the Heat to two NBA championships in 2012 and 2013. During the 2014 NBA draft on June 26, 2014, Cleveland held the first overall pick and used it to select Andrew Wiggins. Later on August 23, a three-team trade was completed involving the Cavaliers, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Philadelphia 76ers. As part of the deal, Cleveland dealt Wiggins and Anthony Bennett and received Love.
James, Love, and guard Kyrie Irving became known as the Big Three. The Cavaliers got off to a shockingly bad start that led to intense media scrutiny and caused many to question Blatt's job security, going 19–20 in their first 39 games, which included a stretch where they were 2–10 in 12 games, starting with a December 25 road loss to Miami. Injuries to James and "chemistry issues," with James "still learning how to play with his new teammates and vice versa," were considered the primary reasons for the underwhelming start. A number of trades turned the season around. The Cavaliers acquired J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the Knicks in exchange for draft picks while sending Dion Waiters to the Thunder. They then acquired Timofey Mozgov. James's return to the Cavaliers' lineup (following a 2-week layoff) on January 12 completed the turnaround. The Cavaliers closed out the season on a high note, going 34–9 for a 53–29 regular season record and the Central Division title, the second best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavaliers advanced to the Finals after sweeping the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, defeating the Chicago Bulls in six games during the second round, and sweeping the Hawks in the conference finals.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors entered the 2014–15 season after replacing Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr as head coach. This was Kerr's first ever head coaching job. After retiring as a player in 2003, he served as a broadcast analyst from 2003 to 2007 and 2010 to 2014, and as general manager of the Phoenix Suns from 2007 to 2010. Revamping Golden State's offense, Kerr employed elements of the triangle offense from his playing days with the Chicago Bulls under Phil Jackson, the spacing and pace of Gregg Popovich from his playing days in San Antonio with the Spurs, and the uptempo principles Alvin Gentry used in Phoenix when Kerr was the GM.
In Kerr's first year, the Warriors finished with the best regular season record at 67–15, including an incredible 39–2 in home games. Kerr became the winningest rookie head coach in NBA history, passing Tom Thibodeau and his 62 wins with the Chicago Bulls in 2010–11. Point guard Stephen Curry set the NBA record for three-pointers made in a regular season with 286, eclipsing his own record set in 2012–13. Curry also won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award for the 2014–15 season. He and fellow guard Klay Thompson, known as the Splash Brothers, finished first and second in the league in three-pointers made, respectively, and combined to make 525 threes, surpassing their previous league record for a duo by 41, while also converting an impressive 44% of those shots. During the season, the backcourt mates both started in the NBA All-Star Game and were each named to the All-NBA team, the first time in decades that either has been achieved by guards on the same team. Golden State advanced to the Finals after sweeping the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in six games during the second round, and eliminating the Houston Rockets in five games in the conference finals.
Road to the finals
|Cleveland Cavaliers (Eastern Conference champion)||Golden State Warriors (Western Conference champion)|
|Defeated the 7th seeded Boston Celtics, 4–0||First round||Defeated the 8th seeded New Orleans Pelicans, 4–0|
|Defeated the 3rd seeded Chicago Bulls, 4–2||Conference semifinals||Defeated the 5th seeded Memphis Grizzlies, 4–2|
|Defeated the 1st seeded Atlanta Hawks, 4–0||Conference finals||Defeated the 2nd seeded Houston Rockets, 4–1|
Regular season series
The Cavaliers and Warriors tied the regular season series 1–1, with each team winning its home game.
January 9, 2015
|Cleveland Cavaliers 94, Golden State Warriors 112|
February 26, 2015
|Golden State Warriors 99, Cleveland Cavaliers 110|
|Game||Date||Away Team||Result||Home Team|
|Game 1||Thursday, June 4||Cleveland Cavaliers||100–108 (OT) (0–1)||Golden State Warriors|
|Game 2||Sunday, June 7||Cleveland Cavaliers||95–93 (OT) (1–1)||Golden State Warriors|
|Game 3||Tuesday, June 9||Golden State Warriors||91–96 (1–2)||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Game 4||Thursday, June 11||Golden State Warriors||103–82 (2–2)||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Game 5||Sunday, June 14||Cleveland Cavaliers||91–104 (2–3)||Golden State Warriors|
|Game 6||Tuesday, June 16||Golden State Warriors||105–97 (4–2)||Cleveland Cavaliers|
For the first time in NBA Finals history, the first two games went into overtime and first since 2009 were involved between the Lakers and the Magic. After Golden State fell behind 2–1 in the series, Kerr gave swingman Andre Iguodala his first start of the season, replacing center Andrew Bogut in Game 4. The Warriors' small lineup, which came to be known as the Death Lineup, helped turn the series around. Golden State won the series in six games, claiming their first title since 1975 and their fourth in franchise history. They played small ball in the Finals to a greater extent than any prior champion. Combining regular season and playoff games, the Warriors finished 83–20, the third-best record ever behind the Chicago Bulls in 1995–96 (87–13) and 1996–97 (84–17).
Iguodala was named the Finals MVP, becoming the first to win the award without having started every game in the series. He finished the Finals averaging 16.3 points, 4 assists, and 5.8 rebounds. He was also tasked with guarding Cleveland's LeBron James, who made only 38.1% of his shots when Iguodala was in the game, but still averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists. James received four of the 11 votes for Finals MVP even though Cleveland lost by an average of 14 points in the final three games. Stephen Curry was just the sixth player to win his first league MVP and his first NBA title in the same season. Shaquille O'Neal was the last player to have accomplished the feat, in 1999–2000. Kerr became the first rookie coach to win a title since Pat Riley in 1981–82.
The Warriors were the first team since the 1990–91 Bulls to win a title with a roster that did not have any players with Finals experience. James and teammate James Jones made their fifth consecutive trip to the Finals, having qualified the previous four seasons with the Miami Heat, though Jones did not play in the 2011 Finals. It was the first time since 1998 that the Finals did not include the Los Angeles Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, or the Heat. This was also the first NBA Finals since then not to have featured Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Dwyane Wade.
|Cleveland Cavaliers 100, Golden State Warriors 108 (OT)|
|Scoring by quarter: 29–19, 22–29, 22–25, 25–25, Overtime: 2–10|
|Pts: LeBron James 44
Rebs: Tristan Thompson 15
Asts: Irving, James 6 each
|Pts: Stephen Curry 26|
Rebs: Andrew Bogut 7
Asts: Stephen Curry 8
|Golden State leads series, 1–0|
The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 108–100 in overtime, taking Game 1 and the 1–0 series lead. The Cavaliers got off to a strong start, opening up a 29–15 lead before settling for a 10-point lead after the 1st quarter. In the 2nd quarter, the Warriors went on a big run and led 46–41. The Cavaliers then went on a 10–2 run to close out the first half, capped off by a J. R. Smith three with .7 seconds left. The Cavaliers led 51–48 at halftime. The second half was a back and forth affair, with neither team able to gain separation. Late in the 4th, Timofey Mozgov hit two free throws to tie the game at 98. The Warriors ran a play for Stephen Curry out of a timeout. Curry beat Kyrie Irving to the basket and went for a go-ahead layup, but Irving blocked the shot, and the Cavaliers called timeout after Smith secured the rebound. The Cavaliers had two chances to win in the final seconds of regulation. James's potential game-winning jumper was off, and then Iman Shumpert got the offensive rebound and threw a shot at the buzzer, but also missed, sending the game to overtime. In overtime, the Warriors dominated with a 10–0 run consisting of 7 free throws and a three-pointer by Barnes. Cleveland's only score in the extra period was James's layup with 9.5 seconds left as the Cavaliers shot 1/12 and committed 3 turnovers in the game's final 5 minutes.
Only three players scored for the Cavaliers after halftime: James, Irving, and Mozgov. The trio combined for 83 of the Cavaliers' 100 points. James had a career NBA Finals high of 44 points, while attempting a postseason career-high 38 shots, and Curry led Golden State with 26 points. The Warriors' bench outplayed the Cavaliers' bench, outscoring them 34–9, with all 9 Cavaliers bench points coming from Smith. Andre Iguodala led the Warriors bench in scoring with 15 points. Irving suffered a knee injury in overtime and was forced to leave the game early. The following day, he was diagnosed with a fractured left kneecap that would require surgery and was ruled out for the rest of the Finals, joining Kevin Love, who suffered a dislocated shoulder against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, and Anderson Varejão.
|Cleveland Cavaliers 95, Golden State Warriors 93 (OT)|
|Scoring by quarter: 20–20, 27–25, 15–14, 25–28, Overtime: 8–6|
|Pts: LeBron James 39
Rebs: LeBron James 16
Asts: LeBron James 11
|Pts: Klay Thompson 34|
Rebs: Green, Bogut 10 each
Asts: Curry, Iguodala 5 each
|Series tied, 1–1|
The Cavaliers defeated the Warriors 95–93 in overtime, tying the series at 1–1 and stealing homecourt advantage heading into Cleveland. For the first time in NBA Finals history, the first two games were decided in overtime, with the Cavaliers winning their first Finals game in franchise history. LeBron James tallied his fifth Finals triple-double with 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists while moving solely into second all-time in Finals triple-doubles behind Magic Johnson's 8. James, who shot 11-for-35 in the game, played 50 minutes and led all scorers. James either scored or assisted on 66 of Cleveland's 95 points, and his 83 points in the first two games of a Finals was also second all-time to Jerry West's 94 in the 1969 Finals. Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 34 points. Curry added 19, but he struggled mightily against the Cavaliers' defense, shooting 5-for-23 from the floor, including 2–15 from 3-point range. Curry set an NBA record for most missed three-point attempts in an Finals game with 13. Matthew Dellavedova's defense on Curry was huge as Curry was 0–for-8 against him.
The margin was close through the first three quarters, with neither team leading by more than 8 points. The Warriors jumped out to a 20–12 lead, but the Cavaliers closed the quarter on an 8–0 run to tie the game at 20. The Warriors led 31–25 early in the 2nd quarter, but the Cavaliers went on a 15–2 run to take a 40–33 lead. They settled for a 2-point lead at halftime, leading 47–45. The third quarter was low scoring, with the Cavaliers scoring 15 points and the Warriors 14 points. Heading into the 4th quarter, the Cavaliers led 62–59. After three tight quarters, the Cavaliers began to pull away, building an 83–72 lead with just over 3 minutes remaining in the fourth. However, the Cavaliers squandered the 11-point lead as the Warriors went on a 15–4 run to tie the game at 87, capped off by a Curry finger roll layup with eight seconds remaining. Out of a timeout, James drove towards the basket as he went for a game winning layup, but he misfired, and the rebound tipback attempt by Tristan Thompson was unsuccessful.
In the overtime, Iman Shumpert hit a three-pointer, and James made two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 92–87 lead. However, Draymond Green answered with back-to-back baskets, and Curry hit two free throws to give the Warriors a 93–92 lead. Out of the timeout, James's go-ahead layup was blocked by Green and recovered by Andre Igoudala, but he threw it out of bounds, giving possession back to the Cavaliers. The ensuing Cavaliers possession resulted in a three-point attempt by James Jones which missed, but Dellavedova grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. Dellavedova hit both free throws to give the Cavaliers a 94–93 lead with 10.1 seconds remaining. After a timeout, the Warriors went to Curry, who airballed the potential go-ahead jumper. James rebounded the miss and was fouled.
James hit one of two at the line, giving the Cavaliers a 95–93 lead with 4 seconds left in overtime. With no timeouts remaining, the Warriors had to go the length of the court to get off a game-tying or game-winning shot attempt. However, Curry's pass near midcourt was stolen by Tristan Thompson, and the Cavaliers ran out the clock. After getting badly outplayed in Game 1, the Cavaliers' bench outscored the Warriors 21–17 in Game 2. The Cavaliers handed the Warriors their 4th home loss of the season (including the postseason) and were only the second Eastern Conference team to win at Oracle Arena (the Chicago Bulls also won in overtime on January 27). The victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers was their first ever single game Finals victory, having lost Game 1 of this series, and being swept in the 2007 Finals by the San Antonio Spurs.
Following the game, James had dubbed the undermanned Cavaliers as "The Grit Squad", due to adopting a slower paced, more physical style of play in the absence of All-Stars Irving and Kevin Love. This new moniker was quickly embraced by Cavaliers fans, in hopes that this new tough style of play would be enough to offset the Warriors' depth advantage.
|Golden State Warriors 91, Cleveland Cavaliers 96|
|Scoring by quarter: 20–24, 17–20, 18–28, 36–24|
|Pts: Stephen Curry 27
Rebs: Ezeli, Green 7 each
Asts: Stephen Curry 6
|Pts: LeBron James 40|
Rebs: Tristan Thompson 13
Asts: LeBron James 8
|Cleveland leads series, 2–1|
The Cavaliers led wire to wire as they defeated the Warriors 96–91 and took a 2–1 series lead. The first half was close throughout, with the Cavaliers leading 24–20 after the first quarter. They led 44–37 at halftime. Stephen Curry's struggles in Game 2 carried over to the first half of this game as he was held to 3 points in the first half. In the third quarter, the Cavaliers seized control, outscoring the Warriors 28–18. They led by as many as 20 in the third quarter before taking a 72–55 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The 55 points scored by the Warriors was their lowest scoring output through three quarters all season. However, the Warriors fought back, making it a 1-point game as they cut the deficit to 81–80 late in the fourth quarter. However, Matthew Dellavedova banked in a circus shot as he tumbled to the floor while being fouled by Curry. He made the free throw to put the Cavaliers up 84–80. After Curry committed a turnover, LeBron James hit a three-pointer to give the Cavs an 87–80 lead. Curry hit a handful of three-pointers down the stretch, but the Cavs made their free throws and closed out the win.
James led all scorers with 40 to go along with 12 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals. Through 3 games, James scored 123 points, the most points scored by any player in the first three games of any NBA Finals series, surpassing Rick Barry's 122 from the 1967 NBA Finals. Dellavedova scored 20, a playoff career high. Curry led the Warriors with 27 points, 17 of which came in the fourth quarter. This win marks the first time that the Cavaliers held a lead in a Finals series in their franchise history, as well as their first home win in a Finals series in their franchise history.
|Golden State Warriors 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 82|
|Scoring by quarter: 31–24, 23–18, 22–28, 27–12|
|Pts: Curry, Iguodala 22 each
Rebs: three players 8 each
Asts: Curry 7
|Pts: Timofey Mozgov 28|
Rebs: Tristan Thompson 13
Asts: LeBron James 8
|Series tied, 2–2|
The Warriors routed the Cavaliers 103–82 in Game 4, evening the series at 2–2 and reclaiming homecourt advantage. Despite stating that there would be no changes to the starting lineup the morning of Game 4, Kerr inserted Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup in place of Andrew Bogut, while moving Draymond Green to the center position. The Cavaliers scored the first seven points of the game and led 16–9, but the Warriors closed out the first quarter on a 22–8 run to lead 31–24. In the second quarter, the Cavaliers got a scare when LeBron James suffered a laceration on his head from a courtside photographer's camera lens after a hard foul on Bogut, but he stayed in the game without any stitches. The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 23–18 in that period and led 54–42 at halftime. The Cavaliers outscored the Warriors 28–22 in the third quarter as they cut a 15-point deficit down to 3 in two instances. The Cavaliers had it down to 65–62, but Harrison Barnes hit a three-pointer out of the timeout to stop the run.
With the Warriors leading 73–70 late in the third quarter, Stephen Curry hit a three to give the Warriors a 76–70 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Warriors dominated the final period, leading by as many as 23 as they outscored the Cavaliers 27–12. The Cavaliers shot 4-for-27 from behind the 3-point line for the game and were 6–45 outside the paint, a season worst. The 82 points that the Cavaliers scored were a postseason low while the Cavaliers' bench scoring production (7 points) was also a postseason low. Curry and Iguodala led the Warriors in scoring with 22 apiece. Timofey Mozgov led the Cavaliers with 28. After averaging 41 points in the first three games of the Finals, James was held to 20 points on 7–22 shooting. After the game, Kerr admitted to his deception regarding the starting lineup, quipping, "I don't think they hand you the trophy based on morality."
|Cleveland Cavaliers 91, Golden State Warriors 104|
|Scoring by quarter: 22–22, 28–29, 17–22, 24–31|
|Pts: LeBron James 40
Rebs: LeBron James 14
Asts: LeBron James 11
|Pts: Stephen Curry 37|
Rebs: Harrison Barnes 9
Asts: Andre Iguodala 7
|Golden State leads series, 3–2|
Coming into this game with the series tied at 2 games apiece, the Game 5 winner had gone on to win the NBA championship in 20 of the previous 28 instances.
The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 104–91 and took a 3–2 series lead heading back to Cleveland. The first three quarters were tight, with neither team leading by more 7. Both teams scored 22 points in the 1st quarter. The Warriors led 51–50 at halftime on a Harrison Barnes' three-point play following a dunk. They took a 6-point lead into the 4th quarter, leading 73–67. The Cavaliers opened the 4th quarter on a 13–6 run. LeBron James' deep three-pointer gave the Cavaliers an 80–79 lead with just over 7:30 remaining in the 4th quarter. However, the Warriors responded with a huge run, outscoring the Cavaliers 25–11 the rest of the way. Curry scored 37 points on 13–23 shooting in the victory, including 7–13 from 3-point range. 17 of his 37 points came in the 4th quarter.
James had his second triple-double of this NBA Finals series, posting 40 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. James led all players in points, rebounds and assists, and was responsible for 70 of 91 Cavaliers points (40 scored, 30 assisted). It was his sixth career finals triple double, second all-time behind only Magic Johnson with 8. James also tied Oscar Robertson for most 30–10–10 playoff games with 8. He became the second player in NBA Finals history to score 40 points in a triple double after Jerry West in 1969.
|Golden State Warriors 105, Cleveland Cavaliers 97|
|Scoring by quarter: 28–15, 17–28, 28–18, 32–36|
|Pts: Curry, Iguodala 25 each
Rebs: Draymond Green 11
Asts: Draymond Green 10
|Pts: LeBron James 32|
Rebs: LeBron James 18
Asts: LeBron James 9
|Golden State wins NBA Finals, 4–2|
The Warriors finished off the Cavaliers 105–97, winning the series 4–2. The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 28–15 in the 1st quarter. However, the Cavaliers went on a big run to cut the deficit to 2 at halftime, trailing 45–43. The Cavaliers led 47–45 early in the third quarter, their only lead of the second half. However, the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 28–18 in the 3rd quarter, leading by as many 15 before taking a 12-point lead into the 4th, leading 73–61. In the 4th quarter, the Cavaliers cut the deficit down to 7, but the Warriors pushed the lead back to 15. The Cavaliers, led by J.R. Smith, made a late surge to cut it to 4 with under 40 seconds remaining. However, the Warriors hit their free throws and closed out the series, giving the franchise their first title since 1975, and the city of Oakland its first major league sports championship since the Oakland Athletics won the 1989 World Series. Andre Iguodala, who did not start for the Warriors until Game 4 of the Finals, was named the Finals MVP for his instrumental defense against LeBron James, who led the Cavaliers with 32 points. Iguodala had the third lowest scoring average of any Finals MVP in NBA history. James became the youngest player to score 5000 career points in the playoffs.
Golden State Warriors
|2014–15 Golden State Warriors roster|
|2014–15 Cleveland Cavaliers roster|
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
- Golden State Warriors
|James Michael McAdoo||1||0||1.2||.000||.000||.000||1.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
- Cleveland Cavaliers
|J. R. Smith||6||0||33.6||.312||.294||.600||4.3||1.0||0.5||0.8||11.5|
In the United States, the NBA Finals aired on ABC with Mike Breen as play-by-play commentator, and Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson serving as color commentators. ESPN Radio aired it as well and had Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown as commentators. ESPN Deportes provided exclusive Spanish-language coverage of The Finals, with a commentary team of Álvaro Martín and Carlos Morales.
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