Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, GSW leads series 3-1 (9pm ET Monday, ABC)
Steph Curry finally knocked off the rust in Game 4, leading all scorers with 38 points, and leading the Warriors’ Finals-record barrage of 17 3-pointers, as Golden State climbed out of a third-quarter hole to beat the Cavaliers 108-97. Tonight the Warriors have a chance to wrap up their second-consecutive title, but will have to do so without the aid of All-Star forward Draymond Green.
The Warriors outshot the Cavs in the first quarter, but the Cavs’ Tristan Thompson grabbed 5 offensive rebounds, three of which he converted into buckets, while Kyrie Irving put the pedal to the floor, scoring 9 points, and dishing out 3 assists. Despite hitting 8 of 14 from the floor, including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, the Warriors were only up 29-28 when the buzzer sounded.
The score went back and forth in the second quarter, as there were seven lead changes and three ties, the last of the half being at 47-47 with 2:24 to play. A Klay Thompson free throw put the Warriors up by one, but in the blink of an eye, the Cavs ripped of four field goals in a row before Curry drained the final basket of the half to stop the bleeding at 55-50 Cleveland.
A LeBron 3-pointer early in the third quarter would give Cleveland their biggest lead of the game, as they went up 61-53, but it would prove to be the beginning of the end for the Cavs, as the Splash Brothers were poised to do their thing. Thompson would hit on 3 of 3 with a pair of free throws for 10 points over the next 5 minutes, and Curry would drain a pair of threes, including the tiebreaker that put the Warriors up 72-69. The Lead would grow to as much as 6, but a pair of Love free throws would make 79-77 Warriors at the end of the third.
A pair of baskets by Love and James to open the fourth would give Cleveland the lead at 81-79, at a James putback a minute later would put Cleveland up 83-81. Tragically, for the Cav, over the next 6 and a half minutes, they would shoot 0-for11, and score just 1 point, on an Irving free throw, while the Warriors scored 12, to go up 93-84 with under 4 minutes to go. The final 43 seconds of the game were a free throwing shooting clinic, as Thompson went 4 for 4, and Curry went 6 for 6.
Tempers flared late in the fourth quarter, as the notoriously chippy Draymond Green got entangled with James. Limbs flailed, and in a flash Green was on the floor. A frustrated and annoyed James stepped over Green, which, frankly, is a jerk move, Green responded with a blind swing at James’ clapper, and suddenly the men were face-to-face, puffed chests bumping, but no other punches were thrown. Green was retroactively assessed a flagrant-1 foul, putting him over the limit for flagrant foul “points” in the playoffs and triggering a 1-game suspension.
Curry did the impossible, managing to score 38 points quietly, as he hit on 11 of 25 from the floor, 7 of 13 from downtown, numbers that we’ve come to expect from the two-time MVP. And in the fourth quarter, when he scored 13 points, 6 of them came of them came on last-minute free throws.
Kyrie Irving was a beast for the Cavs, repeatedly knocking the Warriors back on their heels all night as he pushed the ball upcourt, driving again and again, one layup high off the glass after another. Irving led the Cavs with 34 points on 14-of-28 shooting, with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.
LeBron James, for his part, had one of the more uninspired 25-13-9 nights in Finals history, as time and again he kicked the ball out of the paint, rather than forcing the issue, failing to go into the attack mode that made Irving so effective, while also making 7 turnovers. James has now made 23 turnovers in this series, 14 more than anyone else on his team, and 5 more than Curry, the Warriors’ leader. In last year’s Finals against the Warriors, James went Voltron, as he threw the Cavs on his back in the absence of Love and Irving. If he could get back to that with Love and Irving, the Cavs might have a shot at getting back in this thing. But the Warriors are too talented and deep for LeBron to leave the likes of JR Smith or Iman Shumpert with too much responsibility.