Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots past Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) during the second half of Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland, Friday, June 9, 2017. Cleveland won 137-116. (Ronald Martinez/Pool Photo via AP)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
CLEVELAND, OH — The closeout games are always the toughest to win.
The Golden State Warriors were 48 minutes from basketball immortality when they entered Game 4 of the NBA Finals with a chance to send the Cleveland Cavaliers home for the summer, but the Cavaliers used lead wire-to-wire for a 137-116 win Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena to force Game 5 in Oakland on Monday night at Oracle Arena.
The loss snaps Golden State’s postseason record 15 straight wins, denying the Warriors of becoming the first team in NBA history to go through the postseason undefeated at 16-0.
Give the Cavaliers credit, they weren’t ready to see the Warriors celebrate another championship on their home floor as Golden State did back in 2015 when they defeated Cleveland in six games to capture the franchise’s first championship in 40 years.
LeBron James, who passed former Los Angeles Lakers great and hall of famer Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles in the Finals with his 31-point, 10-rebound and 11-assist effort, finished 11-for-22 from the floor.
James led Cleveland with 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Cleveland’s heartbreaking loss to the Warriors 118-113 in Game 3 on Wednesday night after Cleveland led by six with three minutes left in the game before Golden State went on an 11-0 run to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
But don’t blink now, but the Cavaliers find themselves in the same predicament this year as they did last year: down 3-1 heading back to the West Coast trying to stave off elimination and we all know what happened.
The Cavaliers won Game 5 in Oakland, Game 6 in Cleveland, and the clinching Game 7 on the Warriors’ home floor for the Cavaliers’ first championship in franchise history, and the first major championship for Northeast Ohio since 1964.
Cleveland obliterated the record book for the Finals in Game 4, having the highest-scoring first quarter (49 points) and first half (86 points) and the most 3-pointers (24) in Finals history.
Kyrie Irving turned in another spectacular game, scoring a game-high 40 points on 15-for-27 shooting, including 7-for-12 from beyond the 3-point line.
But Game 4 was a lot closer than the final score indicated.
Both teams got 87 shots up, but Cleveland shot a blistering 52.9-percent (46-for-87) from the floor, compared to Golden State’s 44.8-percent (39-for-87).
Cleveland slightly out-rebounded Golden State 56-52, thanks largely to Tristan Thompson’s 10 rebounds after having just nine in Games 1-3 combined. The Warriors made keeping Thompson off the boards in the series a priority after averaging double-digit rebounds in the two previous Finals meetings between the teams.
For Golden State, you gotta turn the page from Game 4 and focus on Game 5 after letting the opportunity for a sweep slip through their fingers.
Kevin Durant, one victory away from his first championship, finished with 35 points on 9-for-22 shooting. It was Durant’s fourth-straight 30-point game of the series, but the Splash Brothers picked a bad night to have their quietest game of the Finals, combining for only 27 points on 8-for-24 from the floor (6-for-19 on 3s)
Cleveland did a great job of harassing Curry in Game 4, double-teaming and trapping the two-time league MVP whenever he got the ball.
Curry never got in a groove offensively, shooting 4-for-13 from the floor and a putrid 2-for-9 from the 3-point line while recording 10 assists after finishing with 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in Game 3.
Klay Thompson finished with 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting. All of Thompson’s makes were from beyond the 3-point line, converting 4-for-10. Thompson’s 30 points were instrumental in Golden State’s Game 3 win.
Draymond Green had 16 points and 14 rebounds and was part of a crazy set of events in the third quarter that led two technical fouls, and a friend of James being escorted from the arena.
It was announced in the third quarter that Green had assessed his second technical foul, prompting security onto the floor to escort Green back to the locker room. But the officials confirmed that Green’s technical foul in the first half was actually given to Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, which was even more confusing.
Then, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia was involved in a pileup where he appeared to swipe Cavaliers forward Iman Shumpert int he groin area. Pachulia should’ve been ejected from the game, but was given a technical foul along with Shumpert.
A total of seven technical fouls and one flagrant foul were handed down in Game 4.
There will be a lot said and written about the Cavaliers dominance over the Warriors in Game 4 over the next 48 hours, whether its opinions or jokes. Cleveland were the aggressor from start to finish for 48 minutes and that can’t be glossed over. Golden State knows what type of team that the Cavaliers are.
The Cavaliers were simply the better team Friday night, a rarity for the opponent to be better than Golden State.
Keep this in mind: one loss isn’t the end of the world for Golden State. The Warriors are still firmly in control of the series and are 31-1 in their last 32 games dating back to the regular season. Golden State is still the superior team and most people don’t expect a sub par performance from the Warriors’ core in Game 5 on Monday night.
But Golden State’s first lost this postseason does leave the door slightly ajar for Cleveland heading back to the 510 area code.