CLEVELAND -- Friday was supposed to be a coronation for the Golden State Warriors, who were one win away from completing a 16-0 playoff run on their way to a second championship in three seasons. After taking Cleveland's best shot in Game 3, a sweep felt inevitable. The Cavs have continued to push the Warriors in this series, but they came up short in the first three games.
Down 3-0, Cleveland didn't back down and dominated Golden State in a 137-116 home victory at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night. The Cavs still face a historical uphill climb, but they finally dispensed with the pleasantries in Game 4.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant had a lengthy exchange of words in the third quarter after Durant asked for officials to review a foul on Kevin Love. Draymond Green appeared to be ejected in the second half after a second technical foul, but the officials rescinded Green's first half technical and awarded it to head coach Steve Kerr to the knowledge of nobody (both said after the game that the calls were confusing). In a scrum for a loose ball in the same quarter, Zaza Pachulia and Iman Shumpert got into a scuffle, which resulted in double technicals after Pachulia punched Shumpert in the groin.
The clutching, the grabbing, the physical play, and the officials' inability to manage the game gave Game 4 a strange rhythm, and a layer of tension that you rarely see for a team trailing 3-0 at home. Extracurriculars aside, the Cavs finally outmatched the Warriors on the offensive end with a historical performance. The Cavs scored 49 points in the first quarter, 86 points in the first half and hit 24 threes as a team, all NBA Finals records.
Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving hit seven threes, scored 40 points and delivered every handshake in the playbook.
LeBron James threw an alley-oop off the backboard to himself and finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
J.R. Smith made five threes and was shooting from 40 feet out with no regard for human life.
swishhhhh pic.twitter.com/RixtEQ69bo- LØØPSØØP (@vineydelnegro) June 10, 2017
The Warriors never threatened in the second half after trailing by 18 points at halftime, as the Cavaliers rolled to a 137-116 victory. "It's about damn time," Irving said afterwards. "We understand who they have on their team and what they're about and how established they are, but I think in those three losses we lost track of who we were. We're still a special team as well. We are here for a reason. We're going against a juggernaut of a team, but we're a juggernaut of a team, too."
Despite the loss, the Warriors are not concerned. It was their first defeat of the postseason, and their first loss in 61 days. Golden State knows it'll be going home on Monday, with two of the remaining three games at Oracle. Asked to comment on the officiating without getting fined, Kerr smirked and replied: "Nice try."
The Warriors also aren't concerned that the Cavs have the experience of coming back from a 3-1 deficit against them last season. "Different team, man," Curry said when asked whether last year's Finals collapse was on his mind. "I love the vibe we had in the locker room after the game, understanding what we need to do differently to play better, to have a better first punch in that first six minutes."
Durant also brushed off any lingering feelings from his confrontation with LeBron. "There's nothing malicious or we didn't say anything malicious," Durant said. "It was just a part of the game."
Green, the mouthpiece of the team, who heard the "Draymond Sucks" and "Cavs in 7 chants," had a sharper response. "I don't pay much attention to anybody in Cleveland, honestly. They don't seem to be the sharpest people around."
The Cavs had their own gripes coming into Game 4 as well. Irving was particularly displeased about the chatter from the Warriors about having a championship celebration in the Cavs' visitors' locker room for the second time in three seasons, and admitted it was a motivation for the team in Game 4.
"I didn't hear it," LeBron said of the chatter. "But some of the other guys heard it and told me that they wanted to celebrate on our floor once again and they wanted to spray champagne in our locker rooms. I didn't stress anything to the guys besides just live in the moment. We have a great opportunity to give ourselves another opportunity to keep going."
With an other-worldly Game 4 performance on the offensive end, the Cavs have earned themselves that opportunity. The Warriors are still in control of this series, and no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA Finals. Golden State isn't in a precarious position yet, but now the Cavs head to Oracle on Monday looking to officially make this a series.