The 2016 NBA Finals just took an interesting turn, and it’s one that the defending champion Golden State Warriors might live to regret. Despite heading home with a three games to one lead, and the chance to close out the series at Oracle Arena, the Dubs looked lost without the suspended Draymond Green, and the Cleveland Cavaliers took full advantage of the situation — more specifically, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did.
Thanks to 41 points from both the King and Irving (the first time two teammates each scored 40+ points in an NBA Finals game), the Cavaliers won Game 5 by the score of 112-97, officially keeping their season alive and ultimately evening the series after a fairly one-sided Game 6 that saw, among other things, Steph Curry throw his mouthguard after being ejected. We’re not quite ready to call this a comeback, but it’s safe to say the Cavaliers aren’t going to go down without a fight.
Although the series now shifts to back to Oakland, the Warriors still hold a home court advantage we don’t expect it to be easy; winning back-to-back championships never is, and neither is defeating the same opponent two years in a row. In the history of the NBA, it’s only happened six times — see for yourselves.
1. Minneapolis Lakers beat New York Knicks
Years: 1951–52 & 1952–53
In the 1952 NBA Finals, the Minneapolis Lakers and the New York Knicks met in a hard-fought series that needed seven games to crown a victor. In the end, behind 21.7 points and 17.4 rebounds per game from George Mikan, the Lakers would end up being the last team standing.
The Knicks got another shot at the Lakers in the 1953 Finals, unfortunately for them, the outcome turned out to be pretty much the same. With Mikan leading the way (at just under 21 points a game), Minneapolis once again climbed to the top of the NBA mountain, this time handling New York in just five games.
2. Boston Celtics beat St. Louis Hawks
Years: 1959–60 & 1960–61
The St. Louis Hawks pushed the Boston Celtics in the 1960 NBA Finals, forcing the series to go seven games. In the end, however, there was just too much talent in the Boston locker room, and Tom Heinsohn, Bill Russell, and the rest of the C’s would not be denied.
The following year, despite St. Louis’ Cliff Hagan and Bob Pettit each averaging roughly 30 points per game in the Finals, the Celtics were once again too strong. When it was all said and done, Boston would need just five games before claiming another title.
3. Boston Celtics beat Los Angeles Lakers
Years: 1961–62 & 1962–63
The 1962 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers went the distance, and in what had become a regular occurrence, the C’s would prevail in seven games. To the surprise of no one, the Lakers would get a shot at redemption the following season. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be more of the same.
With Sam Jones leading the way (24.7 PPG), the Celtics had three players average at least 20 points per game during the 1963 NBA Finals. That sort of balance on the offensive end of the floor proved to be too much for Los Angeles, and Boston would come out on top in six games.
4. Boston Celtics beat Los Angeles Lakers
Years: 1964–65 & 1965–66
Even with Jerry West averaging 33.8 points per game, the Lakers didn’t have the firepower necessary to beat the Celtics in the 1965 Finals. Boston had six players averaging in double figures, and it only took the Celtics five games to dispose of the group from Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Lakers gave the Celtics a serious run for their money in the 1966 NBA Finals. In the end, however, despite forcing a Game 7, the Lakers, once again, fell short of their ultimate goal, losing the series four games to three.
5. Boston Celtics beat Los Angeles Lakers
Years: 1967–68 & 1968–69
The 1968 NBA Finals saw the Los Angeles Lakers finally take down the Boston Celtics. Just kidding — the C’s continued to have the Lakers’ number, winning this series in six games.
Although the Celtics would defeat the Lakers in the 1969 Finals in seven games, the team from Tinseltown did manage to score a small victory. For the first — and only — time in NBA history, a member of the losing side earned Finals MVP honors. Of course, Jerry West probably would’ve preferred to hoist the other trophy.
6. Chicago Bulls beat Utah Jazz
Years: 1996–97 & 1997–98
While the Utah Jazz fought hard in the 1997 NBA Finals, it was enough against Michael Jordan and the defending champion Chicago Bulls. This series would go six games, and for the second consecutive season the NBA title would find a home in the Windy City.