Thursday, June 4, 2015

Oakland vs. Cleveland in the Postseason

It seems like it's been a while since we've seen an NBA game, but the Warriors and Cavaliers will finally begin the NBA Finals tonight. Cleveland heads into the championship series with eight days of rest and Golden State has seven days. The reason for the long break is that both teams made quick work of their Conference Finals opponents. Since moving to a best-of-seven in 1958, it is only the fourth time in NBA history that both Division/Conference Finals were wrapped up in four or five games. 

NBA East Finals Gm West Finals Gm NBA Finals Gm
1970 Knicks d. Bucks 5 Lakers d. Hawks 4 Knicks d. Lakers 7
1974 Celtics d. Knicks 5 Bucks d. Bulls 4 Celtics d. Bucks 7
1986 Celtics d. Bucks 4 Rockets d. Lakers 5 Celtics d. Rockets 6
2015 Cavaliers d. Hawks 4 Warriors d. Rockets 5 ???

As for the other sports, it's more common in the NHL and last year was the first time in MLB since the LCS became best-of-seven.

NHL Semifinal/East Final Gm Semifinal/West Final Gm Stanley Cup Final Gm
1946 Bruins d. Red Wings 5 Canadiens d. Black Hawks 4 Canadiens d. Bruins 5
1954 Canadiens d. Bruins 4 Red Wings d. Maple Leafs 5 Red Wings d. Canadiens 7
1955 Canadiens d. Bruins 5 Red Wings d. Maple Leafs 4 Red Wings d. Canadiens 7
1972 Rangers d. Black Hawks 4 Bruins d. Blues 4 Bruins d. Rangers 6
1978 Bruins d. Flyers 5 Canadiens d. Maple Leafs 4 Canadiens d. Bruins 6
1982 Islanders d. Nordiques 4 Canucks d. Black Hawks 5 Islanders d. Canucks 4
1992 Penguins d. Bruins 4 Blackhawks d. Oilers 4 Penguins d. Blackhawks 4
2009 Penguins d. Hurricanes 4 Red Wings d. Blackhawks 5 Penguins d. Red Wings 7
2010 Flyers d. Canadiens 5 Blackhawks d. Sharks 4 Blackhawks d. Flyers 6
2013 Bruins d. Penguins 4 Blackhawks d. Kings 5 Blackhawks d. Bruins 6
MLB ALCS Gm NLCS Gm World Series Gm
2014 Royals d. Orioles 4 Giants d. Cardinals 5 Giants d. Royals 7

Golden State ran up the league's best record at 67-15, while Cleveland was second in the East with a 53-29 mark. The 14-game gap between the two is tied for the seventh-largest between Finals participants. When the teams are separated by double digits, the team with the better record is 16-2, but the two upsets were both sweeps.

Year Team Wins Team Wins Margin Result
1967 76ers 68 Warriors 44 24 76ers 4-2
1971 Bucks 66 Bullets 42 24 Bucks 4-0
1981 Celtics 62 Rockets 40 22 Celtics 4-2
1972 Lakers 69 Knicks 48 21 Lakers 4-1
1959 Celtics 52 Lakers 33 19 Celtics 4-0
1986 Celtics 67 Rockets 51 16 Celtics 4-2
1970 Knicks 60 Lakers 46 14 Knicks 4-3
2015 Warriors 67 Cavaliers 53 14 ???
1960 Celtics 59 Hawks 46 13 Celtics 4-3
1965 Celtics 62 Lakers 49 13 Celtics 4-1
1975 Bullets 60 Warriors 48 12 Warriors 4-0
1976 Celtics 54 Suns 42 12 Celtics 4-2
1964 Celtics 59 Warriors 48 11 Celtics 4-1
2000 Lakers 67 Pacers 56 11 Lakers 4-2
2003 Spurs 60 Nets 49 11 Spurs 4-2
1957 Celtics 44 Hawks 34 10 Celtics 4-3
1992 Bulls 67 Trail Blazers 57 10 Bulls 4-2
1995 Magic 57 Rockets 47 10 Rockets 4-0
1999** Spurs 37 Knicks 27 10 Spurs 4-1

** The 1999 season was shortened to 50 games by a lockout. By winning percentage, the Spurs were 200 points ahead of the Knicks, good for a 16.4-win margin over an 82-game season.

This will be the second time in the four major professional sports that teams from Oakland and Cleveland have met in the postseason. The first matchup featured the league MVP, an eventual wild-card Super Bowl champion and of course, Cleveland heartbreak.

1980 Divisional

The Cleveland Browns hadn't made the playoffs since 1972, but MVP quarterback Brian Sipe threw for 30 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards in 1980, leading the Kardiac Kids to an 11-5 record and the AFC Central title. The team earned their Kardiac Kids nickname, with 12 of their 16 games decided by seven or fewer points (they went 9-3).

The Raiders also went 11-5, but lost the tiebreaker to the Chargers and had to play Houston in the Wild Card round. They cruised to a 27-7 victory to earn a trip to Cleveland for the Divisional round. Played in sub-zero wind chill, the game was scoreless into the second quarter. It stayed that way after Don Cockroft missed a 47-yard field goal try.

Cleveland would get on the board first though, with Ron Bolton intercepting Jim Plunkett's pass and taking it 42 yards to the house for a 6-0 lead. However, the kicking troubles continued with Cockcroft missing the extra point.

Oakland answered right before halftime, scoring the go-ahead touchdown and extra point thanks to Mark van Eeghen's 1-yard scoring plunge in the final minute of the half.

The Browns took the lead in the third quarter with a pair of field goals and it could have been more, but another field goal attempt was never made due to a botched snap. Down 12-7 heading into the fourth, Oakland came back in the final period, taking the lead with an 80-yard touchdown drive. The key play was this 27-yard pass from Plunkett to Raymond Chester to set the Raiders up at the 16.

Van Eeghen converted his second 1-yard touchdown run of the game, making it 14-12 with 9:22 left.

The Raiders popped the ball away from Sipe in Cleveland territory with just over four minutes remaining and seemed poised to put the game away.

They had the ball at the 15,  but the Browns stuffed van Eeghen on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-inches to get the ball back with two and a half minutes to play.

Sipe hit Ozzie Newsome for 29 yards (25:30 of the video below), and Greg Pruitt for 23 (29:41). Pruitt ran for 14 more and soon the Browns were at the 13-yard line with 49 seconds left (31:30).

During a timeout, head coach Sam Rutigliano called a pass play, Red Right 88. But he told Sipe that if no one was open, "throw it into Lake Erie." Sipe looked for Newsome in the end zone, but Mike Davis intercepted it to win the game for the Raiders.

This was the first of a long string of gut-wrenching postseason losses for a city that hasn't won a sports championship since 1964. It would be followed by John Elway's Drive, Earnest Byner's Fumble, Michael Jordan's Shot, Art Modell's Move to Baltimore, Jose Mesa's blown save and LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach (but at least he came back!).

The Raiders scored another road upset against the Chargers to reach Super Bowl XV. They beat the Eagles 27-10 to become the first wild card championship team in NFL history.

San Francisco vs. Cleveland in the Postseason

For the purposes of these city playoff history pieces, I consider the Warriors and Sharks as both Oakland and San Francisco teams. Looking at the other side of the bay, the Finals will also be the second Cleveland-San Francisco playoff meeting.

The Browns and 49ers began their long franchise histories not in the NFL, but in the All-America Football Conference, which operated from 1946 to 1949. The Niners went 38-14-2 in four seasons, but finished second to the Browns each year, with Cleveland winning all four championships with a 47-4-3 record. Coach Paul Brown's dynasty was fueled by stars like QB Otto Graham, RB Marion Motley, WR Mac Speedie and K/LT Lou Groza.

The last of these titles was won in the 1949 Championship. In the only season under a four-team playoff format, the Browns and 49ers won their divisional round games to set up a showdown for the league's last title.

It was a "slippery" field and the only scoring of the first half was a 2-yard Edgar Jones touchdown run that made it 7-0 Cleveland. The big play of the day was Motley's 68-yard score that opened up a 14-0 lead. The Niners answered with a fourth-quarter touchdown, but the Browns put it away on the next drive, capping a 21-7 victory with a Dub Jones 4-yard run. Cleveland's defense bottled up the league's rushing leader Joe Perry (36 yards) and TD-pass leader Frankie Albert (108 yards).

That would be the last game in AAFC history, as the 49ers, Browns and Colts joined the NFL in a league merger. The Baltimore Colts folded after one season but reemerged two years later.

Stephen  Curry Draymond  Green Klay  Thompson Harrison  Barnes Andre  Iguodala Andrew  Bogut Shaun  Livingston Leandro  Barbosa Festus  Ezeli David  Lee Marreese  Speights Justin  Holiday James  Michael  McAdoo Brandon  Rush LeBron  James Tristan  Thompson Iman  Shumpert Kyrie  Irving Timofey  Mozgov J.R.  Smith Matthew  Dellavedova James  Jones Kevin  Love Mike  Miller Kendrick  Perkins Shawn  Marion Joe  Harris Brendan  Haywood

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