Golden State was historically great.
That’s a compliment to the Cavaliers.
The Warriors won an NBA-record 73 games this season, and Cleveland still beat them – an upset unlike any other in Finals history.
Before this season, 11 teams won more than 12 more games than their Finals opponent (adjusted to put every team on an 82-game schedule). Those teams went 11-0 in the Finals.
The Cavs (57-25) became the first to overcome such a large discrepancy by taking down Golden State (73-9).
The previous record was a 12-win disadvantage. The Warriors (48-34) beat the Washington Bullets (62-20) in 1975.
Here’s every Finals by win difference (adjusted to put every team on an 82-game schedule), favorites winning in blue and underdogs winning in wine:
The Warriors didn’t choke or blow it or become unraveled – except in the ways Cleveland disrupted them. The Cavs applied defensive pressure on the perimeter, crashed the glass, created contact and kept their best players on the floor. Golden State had never faced such a relentless attack.
This is what an upset is. The Warriors were better over the far larger sample, and they earned favored status. But the Cavaliers were better in the Finals, and that matters a great deal more.
Cleveland dug down and conquered an all-time great foe.
To call Golden State anything less is inaccurate and a disservice to the Cavs.