Throwback Thursday: LeBron James Game 2 2015 NBA Finals
June 7, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the 95-93 victory against the Golden State Warriors in game two of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The 2015 Finals won’t necessarily be remembered fondly by the Cleveland Cavaliers fanbase.
Cleveland wasn’t able to pull off the upset against the heavily favored Golden State Warriors. Because of the loss, the amazing performance by LeBron James becomes easily forgotten, even though it shouldn’t. He put up one of the best collective Finals performances in history. Game 2 of that Finals might have been the pinnacle.
The Cavaliers just lost a heartbreaker two nights before. Kyrie Irving played a tremendous Game 1 after sitting out large portions of the playoff run due to injury. The Cavaliers had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but LeBron missed a contested jump-shot and Iman Shumpert missed the put-back just as time expired. The Warriors dominated overtime and took Game 1.
However, the Cavs lost more than the game that night. In overtime Kyrie Irving reinjured himself. He missed the rest of the playoffs and the beginning of the 2015-16 season because of it. Cleveland was already playing without Kevin Love, now they were without two of their top three scorers.
June 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) controls the ball against Golden State Warrior forward Andre Iguodala (9) in the first half in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Nobody was giving the Cavaliers much of a shot heading into the series.
After Irving went down with injury, nobody was giving the Cavs a chance to win a single game. LeBron however had other plans.
With Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavadova, and James Jones at his side, LeBron carried the Cavaliers to an improbable Game 2 overtime win. James did so with 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists.
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Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney described the game this way:
There is no mathematical framework by which the sum of the Cavs’ parts spells out a Game 2 victory. [James] Jones should not be a pivot point in the NBA season’s most important series. Dellavedova, while impressive and unflappable, shouldn’t be commanding this kind of an outsized role. Smith and Shumpert went a combined 3-of-10 from three-point range and Thompson was held to just two points from two free throws as a result of intentional fouling. James is so good that he smears the logical ceiling of what this team should be. On Sunday, that translated to an improbable victory.
When LeBron’s career is all said and done, this won’t necessarily be a game that all of the NBA analysts reminisce about. Games such as Game 5 of the Conference Finals against the Pistons, his 44 points at the Boston Garden in Game 6 of the 2012 Conference Finals, or The Block in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals will all be mentioned before this one. However, that doesn’t mean this game isn’t deserving of being up there as one of the best games he’s ever played.
June 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) speaks to media with his children Lebron James Jr. and daughter Zhuri James following the 93-89 victory against the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
The Rarity of LeBron James’ Performance
It’s rare in team sports that one player can singlehandedly beat a far superior team with almost no help, but that’s what LeBron did. A year and a half later that’s still the case. This was truly a game for the ages.
LeBron and the Cavs couldn’t pull off the upset. However, that series was made a distant memory as the Cavs were able to pull off the upset the next year after becoming the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.
The Cavs and Warriors rivalry will be rekindled in just over two weeks as Steph Curry and company come to the Q for a Christmas day showdown. This time Kevin Durant will be introduced to the rivalry.
The Christmas day game is just one game out of 82 in the record book. But some games seem like they might count for more. That Christmas day showdown appears like it’ll count for a little more than just one game. We’ll also see if LeBron can continue his recent success against Golden State.
I don’t know about you, but Christmas can’t come fast enough.