LeBron James delivered a statement game for the ages Thursday night, scoring 41 points, dishing out a seemingly endless stream of alley-oops, grabbing 8 rebounds, making 4 steals, blocking 3 shots, and turning the ball over just once as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 115-101.
Cleveland dominated the Warriors in the first quarter in a fashion to which the defending champs were not accustomed. The Cavs scored the first 8 points of the game, and when a Klay Thompson jumper pulled the Warriors within 6 at 13-7, it occurred to no one that was as close as Golden State would get for the rest of the night. When the first quarter was over, Golden State had scored just 11 points (22.6% shooting), Steph Curry leading the way with 3 points. Three. It was their worst quarter of the season, and left them down 20.
Tristan Thompson was a monster in the first quarter, from winning the opening tip-off, drawing 3 fouls, pulling down 9 boards, to scoring the Cavs final 2 pints of the quarter with a thunderous dunk off a gorgeous feed through the paint from LeBron.
The Warriors found their footing in the second quarter, as Curry hit 3 of 6 from downtown and 6 of 6 from the charity stripe for 15 points, but the Cavs kept coming. A Draymond Green layup would cut the Cavs’ lead to 46-38, but Cleveland responded by scoring 8 straight points. At halftime, the Warriors had only taken a small bite out of the Cavs lead, trailing 59-43. Late in the third quarter, James’ 3-pointer put the Cavs up 80-61, and the Warriors looked done for, but they closed out to period with a 10-0 run, the last 8 points coming from Thompson. James would take over in the fourth, scoring 17 points, as part of a stretch during which he scored or assisted on 27 consecutive Cavalier points.
With 4:32 left to play and the Warriors down 99-86, Curry drove to his left for what appeared to be an easy layup, seemingly unaware that James was lurking right over his shoulder. As Curry went up, James’ hand swatted the ball down and out of bounds, and then James delivered a nasty “This is MY house” snarl over his shoulder as he walked away. Moments later, Tristan Thompson would grab a rebound, and delivered it to LeBron, who got entangled with Curry, drawing a whistle for Curry’s sixth foul of the game. Outraged by the call, Curry started flailing his arms in fury, whipped his
pacifier mouthguard into the stands and hitting Cavs owner Nate Forbes’ young son Andrew Forbes, drawing a technical foul and a somewhat superfluous ejection, given that his sixth foul had already earned him the rest of the night off.
This is at least the third time Curry has tossed his mouth guard, but he’s never been suspendeded or even fined for it, unlike many of his colleagues.
With 2:59 to play, James would drain a 25-footer to put Cleveland up 108-88, effectively ending the game. Remember back when you knew the Celtics had won a game when Red Auerbach lit his cigar? Nowadays, you can be sure the Cavs have won when you see Timofey Mozgov check in for LeBron, as happened seconds later.
Draymond Green is on the record as saying that the Warriors would’ve closed this series out if he’d been able to play Game 5, and Curry’s wife Ayesha tweeted up a storm, alleging that the series is rigged (a tweet that has since been deleted), that her father was racially profiled by police in the arena, and that the Cavs were intentionally making her and other Warriors family members wait on their bus until the last minute. It would behoove the Warriors to remember how angry they were when the legitimacy of their 2015 title was questioned because of injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Visiting teams are 3-15 all time in Game 7’s, but this one has all the hallmarks of a pantheon game: Hall of Famers; MVPs; bitter rivals; accusations of skulduggery and racial profiling; though none of the games have been decided by fewer than 11 points, both teams have scored 610 points; a team clawing back from a 3-1 hole to force a Game 7.