Posted on June 10, 2017, by Travis Pulver
For the Cleveland Cavaliers to beat the Golden State Warriors in Game Four Friday night, certain things needed to happen. LeBron James had to play like LeBron James. Kyrie Irving needed to bring his A+ game, and Kevin Love needed to do so as well. But that still wouldn’t be enough.
They would need J.R. Smith to have a productive game. It wouldn’t hurt if the bench decided to contribute either. But most of all, they needed Golden State’s superstars to have an off night—and they finally did.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant all struggled to find their shots. The trio combined to go 17-46 on the night and just eight of 28 from three-point range. Durant contributed the most of the three with 35 points followed by Curry with 14 points. Thompson chipped in 13.
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Draymond Green did his best to contribute with 16 points and 14 rebounds but struggled with his shot as well (6-16 from the floor; 1-6 from three-point range).
While a bad night from the Warriors Big Three helped, the Cavs still had to have pretty good nights themselves to pull off the upset—and they did.
James set a new record for most career triple-doubles in the Finals with his ninth (31 points, 11 assists, ten rebounds). Irving found his three-point shot (7-12) and led the way for the Cavaliers with 40 points. Love and Smith also had good nights from behind the arc. Smith hit five of his nine three-point attempts for 15 points. Love made six of his eight attempts and chipped in 23 points.
Cleveland’s bench wasn’t super active (23 total points), but they didn’t need to be.
The Cavaliers set the tone with a record-setting first quarter with 49 points. Golden State did their best to help them with it by sending them to the line for 22 free throw attempts. But Cleveland’s success was due to more than just free throws. The Cavs tied their postseason high with ten assists in the opening quarter.
Before the second quarter, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was asked what his team needed to do going forward. He gave an honest and obvious reply: “Defense. Got to get a stop.”
They did a better job in the second quarter, but the Cavs still outscored them, 37-35, to take an 86-68 lead into halftime. To put their first half into perspective, over the last decade there have been 13 teams that failed to score 86 points (a new record for points in a half) in a game during the Finals.
The Warriors played better defense in the second half, but they couldn’t get their offense on track. Cleveland won easily, 137-116.
Cleveland did everything they needed to do as well as could be expected. Golden State, on the other hand, did just about everything they could do wrong–horribly wrong. It was almost like they had no desire to close out the series let alone make history in the process.
Or maybe they just wanted to win at home in front of their own fans.
But with the win, the Cavaliers are now in familiar territory. They were behind 3-1 in the series last year and managed to make history then. With how the offense exploded in Game Four, an argument could be made in support of another epic comeback.
Curry, Durant, and Thompson had some cold spells during the regular season (rarely if ever at the same time). If the beginning of one of those spells is what fans watched Friday night, this series could get interesting.
Game Five will be in Oakland Monday night at 9 PM ET on ABC.