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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2. 2007 Eastern Conference Finals Game Five vs. Detroit Pistons

In LeBron James’ playoff debut, Cleveland took the Detroit Pistons to seven games before ultimately being eliminated in the conference semifinals. They surprised the entire league with how tough they were able to play the defending champions in their first postseason experience. In 2007, Cavs fans had a true belief that they could beat anybody. LeBron James was only 22 years old, but he looked like Superman to the Cavalier faithful. 

The 2007 Eastern Conference Finals was one of the most stressful playoff series the Cavs have ever been in. The series was tied after four games, and every match had been decided by six points or fewer. Every time these two teams met, the crowd was in store for an intense and defensive fight to the finish. Game Five was no exception. 

With the likely fate of the series on the line, Game Five went to double overtime as both teams struggled to put the other away, and it pushed LeBron James to a level that nobody knew he had. LeBron took over the game offensively, hitting every step-back jumper and also attacking the hoop with force.

LeBron scored the last 25 points for the Cavaliers one his own and 28 of their last 29 points. His performance was a jaw-dropping display of greatness for such a young prospect. This was the game where people started to ponder if LeBron could be the greatest player of all time by the time he hung up the jersey. LeBron finished the game with a staggering 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Long-time Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16 points and eight rebounds.

More importantly, the Cavs took a 3-2 series lead and were one game away from their first NBA Finals. They would go on to win Game Six but lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. 

1. 2016 NBA Finals Game Seven vs. Golden State Warriors

Was there any other option?

Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals was the most important game in Cavaliers history and one of the greatest games in all of NBA history. As aforementioned, the 73-9 Golden State Warriors were up 3-1 over the Cavaliers, and it looked all but over. Thanks to the iconic performances of LeBron and Kyrie, the Cavaliers had tied the series to bring the Cavs to a winner-takes-all Game Seven.

The grand finale was to be played in Oakland, California, giving the Warriors a ruckus homecourt advantage. Still, there was a growing sense of destiny around this Cleveland team, and the fans truly believed that June 19, 2016 would be the day that they finally became champions. The feelings of stress and excitement were so high in the city that passersby could physically feel it. It seemed as though every single person in Northeast Ohio was watching this monumental Game Seven on Father’s Day.

As the night began, players seemed noticeably tight in the first half. On top of the nerves, they were playing the hardest defense of their lives with the Larry O'Brien trophy just one win away. Everyone struggled to find an offensive rhythm, and the Warriors led 49-42 at halftime. It was only seven points, but it added to the growing citywide anxiety.

The NBA had seen all season how quickly this Warriors squad could turn a lead from seven to 20 in a matter of minutes with their three-point shooting. The Cavs needed to come out with an answer, and thankfully they found it. Smith started the third quarter hitting a couple of deep shots, and then Kyrie Irving went on a game-changing run that climaxed with a needed three-point shot that gave the Cavs a 68-61 lead. Fans were feeling cautiously optimistic and could realize how close an NBA championship was. Still, the Warriors were undeniably desperate to pull themselves back into the game. Sure enough, the Warriors answered with their own run, and took a 76-75 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The tension was palpable for all as the teams returned to the hardwood for one final quarter to determine an NBA champion. Golden State improved their lead to 87-83 with 5:37 left in the game. The Cavaliers needed to string together another run, or the season would fall through their fingers.

Fortunately, LeBron James answered the call. After baiting Festus Ezeli into fouling him on a three-point attempt (in which he made all three free throws), LeBron then hit a step-back three-pointer over Ezeli to give the Cavs an 89-87 lead. Klay Thompson and the Warriors quickly answered, and the game was tied at 89 with 4:39 left in the game.

The next four minutes would feel like an eternity as neither team could score a point, desperately trying to take the lead. With 1:51 left in the game, LeBron would come from way behind and block a fast break layup by Andre Iguodola, in what is now known as “The Block”.

Finally, the drought came to an end when the Cavs called a timeout and called on the 24-year-old Kyrie Irving. With 53 seconds left, Kyrie would hit “The Shot”, a step-back three over Steph Curry to give the Cavs a 92-89 lead. The Cavs would hold on to win the game 93-89, securing the franchise's first-ever NBA Championship.

People flooded the streets of Cleveland celebrating, some people crying, but everybody united. The Cavaliers fan base had never seen an NBA Championship, and they just got one in the most dramatic fashion possible. On top of that, Cleveland had not won a Championship since the Browns won in 1964. A high percentage of fans had never seen a professional sports championship ever before this game. June 19, 2016, will forever be a day the City of Cleveland remembers.

As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to another postseason run in the modern era, the past successes of LeBron-led teams will hopefully ignite a desire in Donovan Mitchell and the Cavs to establish a new legacy of playoff brilliance.

Next. 5 best Cavaliers who never made the All-Star Game. 5 best Cavaliers who never made the All-Star Game. dark