10 greatest Cleveland Cavaliers playoff performances of this century

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a lot of memorable playoff runs since they drafted LeBron James in 2003. They have made the NBA Finals 5 times, and even won the Championship in the Iconic 2016 NBA Finals, where they overcame a 3-1 deficit versus the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Let's take a trip down memory lane and countdown the 10 best Cavs playoff games since 2000.
Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers, Game 6
Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers, Game 6 / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages
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6. 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game Four vs. Chicago Bulls

The Cavs' 2015 season seemed to be going to a dark place during this Eastern Conference series versus the Bulls. In Game Three, Derrick Rose banked in a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win the game and give the Bulls a 2-1 series lead. Now, in a must-win Game Four in hostile territory, the Bulls were leading the Cavs 68-61 going into the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers seemed to be out of answers. They lost Kevin Love for the season with a shoulder injury in the first round to the Celtics, and Kyrie Irving was visibly hampered with a knee injury that limited his production drastically.

Nobody besides LeBron seemed to be able to create any offense against a stout Chicago defense, and they only managed to score 12 points in the entire third quarter. The offense looked dead, the team looked discouraged and it seemed they were heading towards an insurmountable 3-1 deficit.

In the fourth quarter, J.R. Smith came alive just in time. He hit a few outside shots and gave the offense that much-needed spark. A 19-6 run propelled the Cavs to an 80-74 lead with just over two minutes left before the final buzzer. Shortly after, the Cavs are up 84-79 with 40 seconds left. Cleveland fans felt a sigh of relief; the lead seemed safe. But, this roller-coaster of a game was not over. Jimmy Butler hit a step-back three-pointer, cutting the lead to two with less than 30 seconds remaining.

The Cavaliers were then trying to inbound the ball and draw an intentional foul. In response, the Bulls trapped LeBron at halfcourt, and instead of passing out of the double team, he tried to bulldoze through it. The refs called LeBron for an offensive foul, and the Bulls had the ball down two points. Derrick Rose would make another clutch basket, driving to the right and hitting a contested layup to tie the game with 8 seconds remaining. Cleveland had already exhausted their timeouts.

The looming sense of dread had crept back in for Cavaliers fans. LeBron would drive full court, just to have his layup blocked out of bounds with only 0.8 seconds remaining. But, the King would not be denied in the end. LeBron would hit a baseline fadeaway jumper over Jimmy Butler as time expired. The Cavs had tied the series, and there was still hope. The Cavaliers would go on to win the series in 6 games.

5. 2015 NBA Finals Game Three vs. Golden State Warriors

In LeBron James’ first season back with the Cavaliers, they found themselves in a 1-1 tied series with the Golden State Warriors, who led the NBA with 67 wins and had the MVP Stephen Curry.

The Cavs were down both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to season-ending injuries. Kyrie’s injury was sustained in the overtime period of Game One against the Warriors. Despite all this adversity, there was a sense of magic in the air around this Cavs team.

The fanbase still fully believed that Cleveland could win this championship, even with two All-Star players out. They had LeBron James back in wine and gold, and many different players had been stepping up all postseason when the team needed it most. And Game Three of the 2015 NBA Finals was the best example of that with the performance of Matthew Dellavedova. He emerged as an unexpected savior of the team, pushing Curry to the brink of collapse with his inescapable defense.

Dellavedova or “Delly” was starting in place of Kyrie Irving and was tasked with guarding Steph Curry. Delly played 38 minutes that night. With every minute of his time, he was giving everything he had, pestering Curry full court, fighting through every screen and doing everything he could to slow down the MVP.

Social media was calling him the “Curry Stopper” during this game, as Steph was visibly frustrated and struggling to find a rhythm with Delly’s pestering tactics. Not only was Delly giving the highest effort on defense, but he also took a big load on the offensive end. He was the secondary playmaker after LeBron and took 17 shots (second highest on the team). Delly had given everything to this game, and as a result, he actually had to go to the hospital after the game to get an IV put in due to severe cramping.

The Cavs seemed to have figured GSW out by pestering Curry full court, and they were up as much as 20 points in the third quarter. Everything was swinging in Cleveland's favor until the MVP decided that enough was enough. Curry would hit 5 three-pointers and score 17 points in the fourth quarter, bringing the Warriors back within three points. Ultimately, they still fell short. The Cavs would hold on to a 96-91 victory and take a 2-1 series lead. LeBron led the way with 40 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. The secret weapon Delly added 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists. To this day, this was the only time in Cavaliers history that they had a series lead in the NBA Finals while the series was still active. It was one of the most memorable and exciting nights ever to be a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers; however, the Cavs would go on to lose the series in 6 games.