Cavaliers beating Warriors in NBA Finals would be all-time upset


LeBron James won’t call the Cavaliers underdogs to the Warriors in the NBA Finals, but Las Vegas does.

And so does historical precedent – in a big way.

Golden State (73-9) won 16 more games than Cleveland (57-25). That’s the sixth largest win difference between Finals opponents in NBA history.

In the 10 completed Finals with the biggest win difference, the favorite is 10-0.

The 1975 Warriors (48-34), who beat the Washington Bullets (60-22), pulled the largest upset by win difference – 12. The 1995 Rockets (47-35) topping the Magic (57-25) is the only other time a team with 10 fewer wins beat its Finals opponent.

Here’s each Finals matchup, sorted by win difference adjusted to put each team on an 82-game schedule – favorites winning in blue and underdogs winning in wine:


Finals Adjusted win difference Favorite
2016 Golden State Warriors (73-9) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25) 16.0 TBD
2015 Golden State Warriors (67-15) d. Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) 14.0 Won
2014 San Antonio Spurs (62-20) d. Miami Heat (54-28) 8.0 Won
2013 Miami Heat (66-16) d. San Antonio Spurs (58-24) 8.0 Won
2012 Miami Heat (46-20) d. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-19) 1.2 Lost
2011 Dallas Mavericks (57-25) d. Miami Heat (58-24) 1.0 Lost
2010 Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) d. Boston Celtics (50-32) 7.0 Won
2009 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) d. Orlando Magic (59-23) 6.0 Won
2008 Boston Celtics (66-16) d. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) 9.0 Won
2007 San Antonio Spurs (58-24) d. Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) 8.0 Won
2006 Miami Heat (52-30) d. Dallas Mavericks (60-22) 8.0 Lost
2005 San Antonio Spurs (59-23) d. Detroit Pistons (54-28) 5.0 Won
2004 Detroit Pistons (54-28) d. Los Angeles Lakers (56-26) 2.0 Lost
2003 San Antonio Spurs (60-22) d. New Jersey Nets (49-33) 11.0 Won
2002 Los Angeles Lakers (58-24) d. New Jersey Nets (52-30) 6.0 Won
2001 Los Angeles Lakers (56-26) d. Philadelphia 76ers (56-26) 0.0 Even
2000 Los Angeles Lakers (67-15) d. Indiana Pacers (56-26) 11.0 Won
1999 San Antonio Spurs (37-13) d. New York Knicks (27-23) 16.4 Won
1998 Chicago Bulls (62-20) d. Utah Jazz (62-20) 0.0 Even
1997 Chicago Bulls (69-13) d. Utah Jazz (64-18) 5.0 Won
1996 Chicago Bulls (72-10) d. Seattle SuperSonics (64-18) 8.0 Won
1995 Houston Rockets (47-35) d. Orlando Magic (57-25) 10.0 Lost
1994 Houston Rockets (58-24) d. New York Knicks (57-25) 1.0 Won
1993 Chicago Bulls (57-25) d. Phoenix Suns (62-20) 5.0 Lost
1992 Chicago Bulls (67-15) d. Portland Trail Blazers (57-25) 10.0 Won
1991 Chicago Bulls (61-21) d. Los Angeles Lakers (58-24) 3.0 Won
1990 Detroit Pistons (59-23) d. Portland Trail Blazers (59-23) 0.0 Even
1989 Detroit Pistons (63-19) d. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) 6.0 Won
1988 Los Angeles Lakers (62-20) d. Detroit Pistons (54-28) 8.0 Won
1987 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) d. Boston Celtics (59-23) 6.0 Won
1986 Boston Celtics (67-15) d. Houston Rockets (51-31) 16.0 Won
1985 Los Angeles Lakers (62-20) d. Boston Celtics (63-19) 1.0 Lost
1984 Boston Celtics (62-20) d. Los Angeles Lakers (54-28) 8.0 Won
1983 Philadelphia 76ers (65-17) d. Los Angeles Lakers (58-24) 7.0 Won
1982 Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) d. Philadelphia 76ers (58-24) 1.0 Lost
1981 Boston Celtics (62-20) d. Houston Rockets (40-42) 22.0 Won
1980 Los Angeles Lakers (60-22) d. Philadelphia 76ers (59-23) 1.0 Won
1979 Seattle SuperSonics (52-30) d. Washington Bullets (54-28) 2.0 Lost
1978 Washington Bullets (44-38) d. Seattle SuperSonics (47-35) 3.0 Lost
1977 Portland Trail Blazers (49-33) d. Philadelphia 76ers (50-32) 1.0 Lost
1976 Boston Celtics (54-28) d. Phoenix Suns (42-40) 12.0 Won
1975 Golden State Warriors (48-34) d. Washington Bullets (60-22) 12.0 Lost
1974 Boston Celtics (56-26) d. Milwaukee Bucks (59-23) 3.0 Lost
1973 New York Knicks (57-25) d. Los Angeles Lakers (60-22) 3.0 Lost
1972 Los Angeles Lakers (69-13) d. New York Knicks (48-34) 21.0 Won
1971 Milwaukee Bucks (66-16) d. Baltimore Bullets (42-40) 24.0 Won
1970 New York Knicks (60-22) d. Los Angeles Lakers (46-36) 14.0 Won
1969 Boston Celtics (48-34) d. Los Angeles Lakers (55-27) 7.0 Lost
1968 Boston Celtics (54-28) d. Los Angeles Lakers (52-30) 2.0 Won
1967 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13) d. San Francisco Warriors (44-37) 24.3 Won
1966 Boston Celtics (54-26) d. Los Angeles Lakers (45-35) 9.2 Won
1965 Boston Celtics (62-18) d. Los Angeles Lakers (49-31) 13.3 Won
1964 Boston Celtics (59-21) d. San Francisco Warriors (48-32) 11.3 Won
1963 Boston Celtics (58-22) d. Los Angeles Lakers (53-27) 5.1 Won
1962 Boston Celtics (60-20) d. Los Angeles Lakers (54-26) 6.2 Won
1961 Boston Celtics (57-22) d. St. Louis Hawks (51-28) 6.2 Won
1960 Boston Celtics (59-16) d. St. Louis Hawks (46-29) 14.2 Won
1959 Boston Celtics (52-20) d. Minneapolis Lakers (33-39) 21.6 Won
1958 St. Louis Hawks (41-31) d. Boston Celtics (49-23) 9.1 Lost
1957 Boston Celtics (44-28) d. St. Louis Hawks (34-38) 11.4 Won
1956 Philadelphia Warriors (45-27) d. Fort Wayne Pistons (37-35) 9.1 Won
1955 Syracuse Nationals (43-29) d. Fort Wayne Pistons (43-29) 0.0 Even
1954 Minneapolis Lakers (46-26) d. Syracuse Nationals (42-30) 4.6 Won
1953 Minneapolis Lakers (48-22) d. New York Knicks (47-23) 1.2 Won
1952 Minneapolis Lakers (40-26) d. New York Knicks (37-29) 3.7 Won
1951 Rochester Royals (41-27) d. New York Knicks (36-30) 4.7 Won
1950 Minneapolis Lakers (51-17) d. Syracuse Nationals (51-13) 3.8 Lost
1949 Minneapolis Lakers (44-16) d. Washington Capitols (38-22) 8.2 Won
1948 Baltimore Bullets (28-20) d. Philadelphia Warriors (27-21) 1.7 Won
1947 Philadelphia Warriors (35-25) d. Chicago Stags (39-22) 4.6 Lost

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

Boston Miami
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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

Gordon Hayward return
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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

Ty Lawson China
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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.