The Los Angeles Lakers will face the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semi-finals. This will be the first time these two teams will play each other since the 1991 semis, with the Lakers winning in five games. With four titles apiece for Stephen Curry and LeBron James, this series could be the defying moment in their legacies.
The Beginning of LeBron vs Curry
The first time Lebron James and Steph Curry faced off in the playoffs was the 2015 NBA Finals.
The Golden State Warriors were at the beginning stages of their dynasty. LeBron had won two championships in Miami, and this was his first time back with Cleveland since “the decision.” James averaged 35.8 points, 13. 3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in six games, but it was the Warriors that won the series 4-2.
The regular season MVP that year was Steph Curry; he averaged 26 points per game. Ultimately, the timing of the defense on LeBron and the presence of the big-time shot-making led to Andre Iguodala winning the MVP trophy.
That was the first of five consecutive finals appearances for the Warriors and the first of four consecutive matchups between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One of the Greatest Playoff Series
In 2016, Golden State won a record 73 regular season games. Steph Curry averaged 30 points in 34 minutes per game and made 402 three-pointers. That type of efficiency made Curry the only unanimous MVP in NBA history. The Warriors overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the conference finals against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder to return to the Finals.
Cleveland made getting through the East seem rather easy. The Warriors won their first two games at home with little resistance from the Cavs. Then, Game 3 in Cleveland was a beat-down by the home team. After Golden State won by 21 in Game 4, there was a lot of buzz about being down 3-1. No team had come back from that deficit in the finals. At the same time, Those teams didn’t have LeBron, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving.
Draymond Green hit LeBron below the belt in game 4, so he was suspended for game 5. Kyrie and LeBron put up 41 points apiece in game 5. LeBron followed that with another 41-point performance in game 6. Now all of a sudden, this is a series tied at 3. At this point of the series, the two teams had the same number of points scored.
Game 7 was one for the ages. Kyrie Irving hits a dagger, coupled with LeBron’s chased-down block, gave Cleveland a 93-89 victory. James led both teams in every statistical category, named MVP.
Curry’s “Kevin Durant Era”
In 2017, Kevin Durant joined Golden State in a controversial free agent signing. KD was the perfect plug-and-play guy to place with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. As I have noted, the Warriors and Cavs faced each other four consecutive times in the finals.
In 2017, the Warriors won in five games, and KD was the MVP of the series with 35.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Steph averaged 27 during that series.
In 2018, Cleveland was swept by Golden State, with Durant again named MVP. After injuries to KD and Klay Thompson spoiled a chance at a three-peat in 2019, Durant left in free agency. LeBron left Cleveland for Los Angeles (Lakers) during that same free agency period
2021 Warriors vs Lakers Play-In Game
The Warriors and Lakers were fighting to get into the postseason, as can be seen by the fact that they played each other in the play-in tournament. Steph Curry had 37 points. He needed 40 as the Los Angeles Lakers won that game 103-100 thanks to a game-winning shot by LeBron James. James “saw three rims” when he shot the ball down to take a shot to the face.
Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 25 points, but it was LeBron’s triple-double (22 pts, 11 rebs, 10 ast) that lead L.A. to the playoffs. The Lakers lost to the Suns in 6 games in the first round.
Final Thoughts on LeBron vs Curry
Steph Curry won his first Finals MVP last season after Golden State went to their sixth Finals in eight years, winning for the fourth time. LeBron is 4-6 in 10 Finals appearances, with his most recent in the 2020 “bubble” season.
LeBron is the all-time leading scorer in the game and the greatest of this generation. Steph has made the most three-pointers in NBA history and is the greatest shooter to pick up a basketball. Both players have four titles and currently stand in the way of the other making a chase for the fifth.