Everyone who thought the Golden State Warriors would have this series wrapped up in four games had a rude awakening June 8 when the Cleveland Cavaliers found their rhythm and put the beat down on Golden State.
From the opening tip-off to the final buzzer the Cavs had control of game three. Shots they weren’t making in the first two games were finding the net. LeBron James, the undisputed leader of the team, led the Cavs with a swagger that made him the dominating force throughout the game. He covered Steph Curry for much of the night, making the NBA MVP work for every shot he hit or missed. When the game was over Curry had scored only 19 points. Harrison Barnes had 18 and Klay Thompson finished with ten. The Splash Brothers barely caused a ripple.
As dominant as James was, he didn’t do it alone. The Cleveland defense was so effective none of the Warriors scored more than 19 points. Andre Igoudala and Draymond Green, who had been incredible for Golden State through the previous five games, scored 17 points between them. The Cavaliers got up in the faces of their opponents for the entire 48 minutes of the game. When it was over Cleveland had beat down the defending world champions, 120-90.
For the Cavaliers to tie this series up before heading back to Oakland — and thereby ensuring a game six in Cleveland — they had to play with the same offensive and defensive intensity they showed the crowd on June 8 at the Quicken Loans Arena. But the Golden State Warriors were the best team in the NBA during the regular season, with the best season record ever in the NBA’s history. Trying to win two in a row against the Warriors is a tall order, regardless of where the games are played.
As it turned out, game four was the most competitive of the series. Both teams led the game at points, but in the middle of the third quarter Golden State began pulling away and in the fourth quarter they just took over. Stephen Curry, the NBA MVP (for the second time) was held in check for the first three games of the series, but he erupted in game four with 38 points, shooting seven 3-pointers in the game. if there is one stat from the game that stands out, besides Curry’s numbers, is the 3-point game. The Warriors made 17 and the Cavaliers only six. Curry actually had more three’s than the entire Cleveland team. Golden State shot 47.2 percent from beyond the arc, while Cleveland shot 24 percent.
Clay Thompson added 25 points, Harrison Barnes had 14 and Andre Igoudala had ten. The Warriors finished the game with five more defensive rebounds than the Cavaliers.
Kyrie Irving had a strong game with 34 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. LeBron James had 25 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and three blocks. Kevin Love had 11 points and five rebounds, and both Tristan Thompson and J.r. Smith scored ten. But it was not enough to match the fury of the Golden State Warriors. Another interesting stat from the game: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving took 88.8 percent of the Cavs’ shots in the second half.
The controversy in the game came late in the fourth quarter when James stepped over Draymond Green, who was laying on the floor. It looked like Green intentionally swung his arm up and hit James in the groin. Green has been suspended from tonight’s game.
Insults and accusations have flown back and forth between the two teams, with Warriors suggesting James lobbied the league to investigate the incident. Klay Thompson even called into question James’ manhood, telling reporters, “It’s a man’s league and I’ve heard a lot of bad things on that court, but at the end of the day it stays on the court.”
Before tonight’s game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told the media, “I think the thought process is that we have to make up for his absence collectively. Obviously, there is not one person who can do all of that, but we’re going to have to try a lot of different combinations and try to find rotations that work.”
Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters before the game he didn’t care about the Warriors, “We’re down 3-1. So, I mean, that’s the decision the league made, and it’s unfortunate on a big stage like this, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to win the game. We’ve got to come out and play and take the game. With Draymond being out, it hurts them defensively, but we’ve still got to come and play. So that has no bearing on the game. We’ve got to be ready to play.”
Tonight’s game five, which begins in just a few minutes, will be the showdown. After a contentious game a four — and a chance for the Warriors to win it at home — both teams will come out prepared and ready to win.
Below are Claudia Gestro’s video reports from games two and four.
Photos by Claudia Gestro.
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