June 12, 2018

The 2018 NBA Finals were Historically Good and Bad

Michael Hester + Jack Beckwith

Chapter four of the Cavs-Warriors saga came to a close on Friday, with the Warriors closing out a four game series. Other than a Game 1 for the ages, the series wasn’t as competitive as one would hope. Despite LeBron’s heroics, Cleveland couldn’t compete. For the third time in four years, the Warriors hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy.

With LeBron rumored to be leaving Cleveland this summer, this may be the last time we see these two teams meet in the Finals for a while (to the enjoyment of many basketball pundits and fans). So what do the stats show us from the final chapter of this modern-day NBA saga?

The Cavs Were Outplayed by the Warriors, Badly

The narrative leading up to the 2018 Finals was clear: this thing wasn’t supposed to be close. Vegas had the Warriors at -1000 odds (or 1/10 favorites) to win it all before the series began. While the series had its moments -- Game 1 was pushed to overtime, and Game 3 wasn’t sealed until KD’s deep three in the final minute -- it never really felt close.   

In fact, the average point differential between the Warriors and the Cavs was the largest in NBA Finals history at 15 points. Coincidentally, the second-highest average margin of victory in the NBA Finals ever was 14 in 2014 when the Spurs trounced LeBron and the Heat during his final season in Miami.

Warriors Vs  Cavs 2018 Finals Scoring Differences
Warriors Vs  Cavs 2018 Finals Scoring Differences Mobile

LeBron’s Finals Stats Were Absurd - Especially For a 33 Year Old

LeBron’s age and fatigue got plenty of coverage this season. He played all 82 games, plus 22 games in the playoffs, giving him the highest minutes played for any player. Probably not an achievement that a 33 year old who has been playing in the league for 15 years is looking to win. But with a weak supporting cast and one of the greatest NBA teams in history standing between him and his fourth NBA championship, LeBron was forced to carry the load in the Finals. And although he wasn’t triumphant, the King certainly delivered.

LeBron’s combined box score stats - points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks - were 54.8 on average during the Finals. That’s the third-highest by a player age 32 and above, only behind himself last year and Kareem in 1980. To make it even more insane, LeBron basically played with a broken hand during the last three games of this year’s Finals.

Not surprisingly, he averaged the second-highest minutes (44.7), behind only Hakeem Olajuwon’s 44.8 in 1995. And that’s considering the fact that LeBron sat for the last four minutes of Game 4 because the Cavs were getting blown out.

LeBron James 2018 Finals Stats
LeBron James 2018 Finals Stats Mobile

LeBron, KD, and Steph Gave Us Incredible NBA Finals Performances

Let’s quickly break down the best performance from each game:

  • Game 1: LeBron drops 51 and nearly wills the Cavs to victory at Oracle until JR Smith does his best JR Smith impression.
  • Game 2: Steph Curry activates human-torch mode, dropping 33 points and hitting an NBA Finals record 9 three pointers.
  • Game 3: Kevin Durant pours in 43 points with an 82% true shooting percentage, including a 30-foot dagger to seal the game.
  • Game 4: Curry goes nuclear again with 37 points (and still isn’t good enough to win the Finals MVP).

The star power in the 2018 NBA Finals was undeniable, with each game featuring an otherworldly individual performance. In fact, if you take the highest individual scoring output from both teams in the finals - LeBron’s 51 and KD’s 43 - you get the fourth highest combined total in NBA Finals history. The last time an opposing duo put up that offensive production was in 1993, when Michael Jordan faced off against Charles Barkley. Barkley dropped 42 in Game 2, and Jordan put up a cool 55 in Game 4.

2018 Included Great NBA Finals Performances
2018 Included Great NBA Finals Performances Mobile