Starting in the East, Lebron and the Cavs walked through the first year playoff team of the Detroit Pistons in four games. The seventh seed Pacers surprisingly took the Raptors to seven games lead by Paul George who averaged 27 points per game in the series. Dwyane Wade and Kemba Walker had an intense seven game series that would eventually see the Miami Heat come out on top. The Hawks also beat the Celtics in their first-year lead by Isaiah Thomas.
The West was equally as exciting. The Rockets stole one game away from the Golden State Warriors who were struggling with injuries at the time. The Spurs unsurprisingly swept the Memphis Grizzlies who were forced to start Matt Barnes and Jordan Farmar at the time. The Thunder took down the Mavericks easily in five games. The Trail Blazers beat the Clippers in six games.
The Cavaliers easily walked through the Hawks in an uneventful four games. In game two, the Cavs set a record for most three-pointers made in a playoff game. Game four would be the last game for both Al Horford and Jeff Teague in a Hawks uniform.
The Heat versus Raptors series, on the other hand, was extremely closely contested. With both teams entering the series coming off of seven games series’ from the previous round, many players were fatigued. In game one, Kyle Lowry hit a ridiculous half court shot to extend the game to overtime despite the Heat winning anyway. In game three, both starting centers (Hassan Whiteside and Jonas Valanciunas) were injured and would be out for the remainder of the series. Game seven would be taken by Toronto on the back of Bismack Biyombo’s energy. Game seven was also the final game played for Dwyane Wade in a Miami Heat jersey.
The Warriors took on the Trail Blazers without the MVP, Steph Curry in the first few games of the series. Following game two in Golden State, Draymond Green brought us one of the funniest moments of the playoffs where he completely froze in an interview with Festus Ezeli. In game four, Steph Curry came off the bench to defeat the Blazers in overtime scoring 17 points. Prior to game five, Steph Curry was officially named the first ever unanimous MVP. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors beat the Blazers that day to move on to the next round.
The Thunder and Spurs matchup was expected to be one of the closest that year. In game one, Lamarcus Aldridge lead the Spurs to a win at home. At the end of game two, Dion waiters pushed Manu Ginobili prior to making an inbound pass. Nonetheless, the Spurs still came up with the ball to take a game-winning shot that was missed by Patty Mills. If an offensive foul was called, the Spurs potentially could’ve won the game. Despite the insanity early on in the series, the Thunder ended up winning the series in six games to move on to take on the Golden State Warriors. Following the series, Tim Duncan retired from the NBA.
Here’s where we get to the really good stuff. After the Cavaliers blew out the Raptors in each of the first two games of the series, Bismack Biyombo lead his team to a game three win with a crazy 26 rebound performance. Game four was much of the same for Toronto as Lowry and DeRozan combined for 67 points in a series-tying win. At this point, the series was tied two-two and many people were believing that the Raptors actually stood a chance of dethroning the King and his Cleveland Cavaliers. Game five ended most of those thoughts however as the Cavaliers outscored the Raptors by 38 points. Game six was much of the same and Lebron James entered his sixth straight NBA finals.
The Western Conference Finals became an instant classic after they ended. The Thunder came out the gates strong with a win led by Russell Westbrook’s 27 point, 7 steal performance. In game two, Steph Curry bounced back with 28 points and the win. The series was tied heading to Oklahoma City. In a game three win for the Thunder, Draymond Green became one of the most unlikeable players in the world. After taking a contested layup, he kicked Steven Adams in the groin and in a postgame interview, Russell Westbrook stated, “it looked intentional to me.” Game four was much of the same for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook had a triple double and Kevin Durant added 26 points to the win. Going back to Golden State, the Thunder held a three-one series advantage. I think you all know what happens next. Game five was headlined by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson who combined for 58 points in the Warriors’ win. In game six, Klay Thompson scored 41 points to bring the series back to Golden State for a game seven. You already know what happened though. Steph Curry scored 36 points and lead the Warriors back from a three-one series deficit. Yes. The Oklahoma City Thunder blew a 3-1 lead and Kevin Durant left Russell Westbrook behind to join the Golden State Warriors in the next offseason.
Before the series even started, it was expected to be amazing. Arguably the greatest team ever was taking on arguably the greatest player ever. A matchup like this will likely never happen again. Despite Steph and Klay going cold in game one, (combined for 20 points) Shaun Livingston and the Warriors’ bench led the team to a win. After Kevin Love left game two early in the third quarter for concussion protocol, the Warriors heat up from three. Draymond Green led the Warriors that night with 28 points. After games one and two, many began counting out Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They didn’t seem to have an answer for the two-time MVP, Steph Curry.
Game three was different. At the end of the first quarter, the Cavs held a 20-point lead over Golden State. Despite the Warriors shortening the lead a little in the second, Lebron James threw down an iconic alley-oop in the third quarter that brought the momentum back to Cleveland. In the end, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and J.R. Smith combined for 82 points in a dominating win over the Warriors.
With the Cavaliers under all the pressure to even the series up going back to Golden State, they ended the first half up by five. Andre Iguodala shut down everything the Cavs wanted in the second half, however, and the Warriors took game four on the backs of 63 points from the Splash Brothers.
The Cavaliers were down 3-1 now. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals. All odds were against them. Unfortunately for Golden State, Draymond Green was suspended for the game. All throughout the first half, it was a back and forth game. The score was 61-61 going into the second half, but Cleveland got to work real quick. Kyrie and Lebron silenced the Golden State crowd with a combined 82 points. This was the first time in NBA history that two teammates each scored over 40 points in a finals game: just another amazing record set this season.
The Cavs brought the series to 3-2 after winning game five. Still, not many gave the Cavs any chance to win the series. Lebron James, silencing the critics once again, lead the Cavs to a huge lead early in the first quarter. Going into the third quarter, the Cavaliers held a 16 point lead. Despite the splash bros catching fire, the third quarter was capped off by yet another iconic alley-oop from Lebron James. The Cavs took charge in the fourth, Steph Curry got ejected for the first time in his career for throwing a mouth guard into the stands, and Lebron James was bringing the series back to Golden State with back to back 41 point games.
I think most of you know what happened in game seven. The entire game was a blur. The one play that really defined the entire season, was Lebron James literally flying through the air to block and Andre Iguodala layup late in the fourth quarter. A couple plays later, Kyrie Irving hit a game clinching three-point fadeaway and the Cleveland Cavaliers were 2016 NBA Champions. Lebron did it for the land and the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead that is still talked about to this day. Without a doubt in my mind, this was the greatest and most entertaining championship not just in NBA history, but in sports history.
If all of that wasn’t good enough, some of the greatest to ever do it also hung it up following this season.
Kevin Garnett is one of the best power forwards to ever live. After returning to Minnesota to mentor some young Timberwolves, KG retired from the NBA to join Turner Sports to make his own show: Area 21.
Tim Duncan probably is the best power forward to ever live. After being eliminated early in the playoffs, the lifelong San Antonio Spur retired from the game of basketball.
If those two names weren’t already big enough, Kobe Bryant went out with a bang. Despite playing for one of the worst Lakers’ teams of all time, Kobe made up for it all, scoring 60 points in the final game of his career against the Utah Jazz. The Mamba will go down as a top-10 player all-time. Coming from a Kings’ fan, that is the ultimate respect.
The Warriors went 73-9, blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals to Lebron James who is considered by some as the greatest player ever after this performance. Aaron Gordon literally broke an Olympic high jump record in the dunk contest and still lost to Zach Lavine, the game said hello to some bright young faces, and said goodbye to some iconic legends.