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The Warriors are by far LeBron James' toughest NBA Finals opponent

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LeBron James must defeat the best team he's ever faced in the NBA Finals to win his third title.

SB Nation's 2015 NBA Finals Guide

Are you looking for an argument that the Cavaliers have a shot to knock out the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals? You will not find it in the following chart.

LeBron's Finals Foes

On paper, the Warriors are easily the most intimidating team LeBron James has ever faced in the Finals. Whether you look at win total, net efficiency rating or scoring margin, Golden State is tops, and in many cases way ahead. (Notably, LeBron had only previous faced one 60-win team in the finals. That was last year's Spurs, who completely waxed the Heat.)

The scoring margin list is particularly eye-opening. The Warriors had one of the top regular season scoring margins in history, and it's way ahead of the other teams LeBron has faced in the finals. In fact, it's more than double that of the 2011 Mavericks ... who beat James' Heat in a convincing six-game series. Ignore that series and LeBron's teams have beaten two opponents with sub-seven scoring margins in the finals, and lost to the two teams better than that. And the Warriors, again, are way better than that.

Everyone remembers the 2007 edition of the Spurs as being excellent. That team swept the Cavaliers in the finals. We sometimes forget that the 2014 Spurs were substantially better than the 2013 Spurs in the regular season. The 2013 edition lost to the Heat in a heartbreaking seven-game series, and the 2014 version, as noted above, waxed Miami. Not to beat a dead horse, but this Warriors team substantially outperformed even the 2014 Spurs.

This looks really ugly. But here's the chart Cleveland dreamers need to see to help them keep the faith.

Better Halves

In the first half of the season -- through roughly mid-January -- the Warriors were absolutely phenomenal. That +495 cumulative scoring margin works out to +12 per game. That means the average Golden State game was a 12-point win. Meanwhile, after 41 games the Cavaliers had a scoring margin of zero. They'd flirted with an average scoring margin as high as +4 before a Western road trip before a two-week rest for LeBron threw them back down to mediocre.

Two things happened in mid-January for Cleveland. First, James took that break. When he returned to the court, he changed the offense, put Kyrie Irving in his place and began playing at an MVP level on both ends. Second, Cavaliers GM David Griffin swung trades for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Everyone around the team seems to credit those additions for Cleveland's surge. And, as the chart shows, it was a massive surge.

Over the second half of the season, the Cavaliers were actually better than the Warriors. Cleveland's second half scoring margin was roughly +9 per game, while Golden State's was around +8. There's an argument that the Warriors ran out to such a massive lead in the West that they eased up considerably, but the Cavaliers (destined for a No. 2 seed for quite a while) actually took more opportunity to rest stars than did their Western counterpart. Clearly, the Warriors weren't as good late in the season as they'd been early on, and some of that can be attributed to their need to be incredible. Nonetheless, the data is there: Cleveland was a better team in the second half of the season.

There's a massive asterisk on this point: Kevin Love was a big part of that second half of the season and he will not be a part of the finals. Though Cleveland aced through the East bracket, there's reason to doubt the Cavaliers that show up in the finals will be as good as the Cavaliers, who had a +9 average scoring margin over the final 41 games of the season. And that doubt is found in Love's shoulder and Kyrie Irving's knee.

At least it's a little slice of hope. Facing a trial like the Warriors, that's all you can ask for.

SB Nation presents: LeBron is carrying a team of spare parts yet again