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NBA Finals: Cavs use historic offensive performance to stay alive

NBA Finals: Cavs use historic offensive performance to stay alive

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Golden State's perfect postseason is over.

Cleveland's coming back again.

Just like last year, the NBA Finals are at 3-1 after four games.

LeBron James recorded a triple-double, Kyrie Irving scored 40 points and the Cavs broke scoring records while outperforming the NBA's most electrifying offense in a testy Game 4 filled with technical fouls on Friday night, beating the Warriors 137-116 and snapping their 15-game playoff winning streak.

"We have championship DNA," said James, who broke Magic Johnson's record with his ninth triple-double in the Finals. "We showed that tonight. We just kept our composure. We shared the ball, we moved the ball and defensively we were physical. It's one game."

But it's the one they had to have, and a series that wasn't living up to its hype and seemed headed for a quick conclusion is California bound for Game 5 on Monday night.

The Cavs scored a Finals record 86 points in the first half and then held on during a wild third and fourth quarter that included technical fouls, James jawing with fellow superstar Kevin Durant and Cleveland's crowd roaring like a jet engine.

No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA playoffs.

But until the Cavs did it last year, no team had ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals. Cleveland took Game 3 at home, lost Game 4 and then won the final three -- Game 7 in Oakland -- to capture the city's first sports championship since 1964.

As the final seconds ticked off, Cleveland fans chanted "Cavs in 7."

"Believeland is not going to give up," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said, "and we're going to keep fighting. We're going to keep scrapping."

The Warriors had swept their first three series and were 48 minutes away from a party they've been planning for a year. But it's on hold and Golden State fans are holding their breath.

Coach Steve Kerr said his players aren't worried about the past.

"I don't think there was any concern or thoughts about history," Kerr said. "I think it was we played a desperate team on their home floor, a great team, with great players, and they came out and handed it to us. Simple as that."

Durant, still one win from the coveted championship he left Oklahoma City to get, scored 35 but got little help from Stephen Curry, who scored 14 on 4-of-13 shooting.

James finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and on one trip threw the ball off the backboard to himself for a dunk.

Kevin Love made six 3-pointers and added 23 points for Cleveland, which made 24 3s, another Finals mark.

If not for Cleveland's Kyle Korver missing a 3-pointer in the final minute of Game 3, the series would be 2-2.

In any event, the Cavs are still breathing and it's now the Warriors who may be feeling the pressure after blowing a 3-1 lead last June.

The third quarter featured a confusing sequence and a scramble on the floor that resulted in two technical, a friend of James being escorted from the arena and back and forth flurries worthy of a heavyweight boxing match.

At one point, it was announced that Golden State's Draymond Green had been given his second technical foul and security came onto the floor to usher the volatile forward to the locker room. However, a technical assessed to him in the first half was actually called on Warriors coach Steve Kerr, leading to the confusion.

Later, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia was involved in a pileup of players in the foul lane and he delivered two swipes to Iman Shumpert's groin area as the referees tried to get control. Pachulia could have been tossed, but was only given a technical as was Shumpert. As this was being sorted out, Todd Leebow, a friend of James who was sitting with the three-time champion's business partners, got involved in an argument with Golden State's bench and was asked to leave.

The Cavs were determined not to let the Warriors celebrate on their floor for the second time in three years, and it was Cleveland, not Golden State, which busted Finals scoring records in the first half. Cleveland scored 49 in the first quarter and 86 during a dizzying opening 24 minutes that left players and fans gasping for air.

And beyond their firepower, the Cavs did it on defense, holding the up-and-down Warriors without a single fast-break point.

With their crowd hanging on every dribble, pass and shot, the Cavaliers came out flying.

Cleveland built an early 16-point lead and for the first extended time the series the defending champions looked and played like the superior team at both ends.

Golden State clawed within seven, but then the Warriors began fouling and Kerr got nailed with his technical -- one of seven in the game. Fueled by the outburst, the Cavs went on a 12-2 run capped by a 3-pointer from Love and dunk by 36-year-old Richard Jefferson, who earlier in the day said he and his teammates would approach the 3-0 deficit like a marathon, "one step at a time."

They've taken the first.

Tip-ins
Warriors: Were trying to become the first team to complete a postseason unbeaten. There have been two one-loss champions: the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers (15-1) and 1983 Philadelphia 76ers (12-1). ... Comedian Kevin Hart and NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. were among the courtside celebrities. ... Before the game, Kerr, who missed 11 playoff games because of back pain, said his decision to return to the bench for Game 2 in the Finals was easy. "It's just fun," he said, "and I felt better. And that was my barometer. If I felt better, I was going to do it."

Cavaliers: James jumped Michael Jordan (1,176) on the Finals scoring list, and hopped over His Airness (1,463) for the most made free throws in pro basketball's showcase event. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,317) and Mr. Logo himself, Jerry West (1,679) have scored more points in the Finals. ... General manager David Griffin's contract expires after the season, and it's not clear if he will be re-signed by owner Dan Gilbert. Griffin took over after Chris Grant was fired in 2014 and has been responsible for overhauling a roster that is the highest paid in the league. ... Reserve guard Dahntay Jones was called for a technical in the first half for trash talking with Durant.

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

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Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

CLEVELAND -- There was none of the usual postgame chatter or music in the Cavaliers locker room.

The mood was somber and quiet, not the same place.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," LeBron James said. "But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely."

Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left and Cleveland came up with a defensive stop in the frantic final seconds after blowing a 23-point lead to beat the Orlando Magic 104-103 on Thursday night and snap a four-game losing streak.

After Thomas made his shots, Orlando's Elfrid Payton missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The three officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle and held a jump ball at midcourt.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon grabbed the toss and sank a 45-footer as the horn sounded and Cleveland's crowd shrieked in disbelief. But Gordon committed a jump-ball violation with the move and Cleveland only had to inbound the ball to come away with a victory following a crazy and exhausting final sequence that left everyone dazed.

"No, I don't," said Thomas when asked if he knew what happened. "It was a lot of back and forth. I'm just glad we just came out with the win" (see full recap).

Rockets cruise past Timberwolves in Harden’s return
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon scored 30 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 116-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

James Harden returned to the Rockets' lineup after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain and finished with 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting, and added seven assists, two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes. Houston went 4-3 in his absence.

Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Clint Capela added 20 points for the Rockets. Houston has won 15 of the past 17 meetings with Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak at home.

Gordon closed out a big third quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass from a step behind the half-court line. After hitting the shot under heavy pressure from Andrew Wiggins, Gordon gave a high-five to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who was sitting courtside near the shot.

Gordon's 3-pointer helped the Rockets finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 89-70 lead into the fourth with their largest advantage of the game. Gordon made 11 of 19 shots, including 7 of 13 from 3, and fell just short of his season-high 33 points against Utah on Dec. 18.

With Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza sitting out the first part of a two-game suspension for a postgame locker room incident on Monday night in Los Angeles, Luc Mbah a Moute started in Ariza's place, scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Along with Ariza, reserve guard Gerald Green was also serving the first of a two-game suspension for the altercation with the Clippers (see full recap).

Blazers top Pacers for 5th straight home win
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 26 points and eight assists, Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers won their fifth consecutive home game, beating the Indiana Pacers 100-86 on Thursday night.

C.J. McCollum added 16 points and Shabazz Napier 13 for Portland, which seems to have its homecourt mojo back, winning five straight after dropping six consecutive home games in early December. The Blazers also beat Indiana for the ninth consecutive time on their home floor.

Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison scored 23 points each for Indiana.

Portland took control late in the third quarter, when the Blazers held Indiana scoreless for more than five minutes. It was part of Portland's 21-2 run, during which Napier scored eight points to help erase a six-point deficit and give the Blazers an 89-76 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Indiana was without forward Myles Turner, the team's second-leading scorer this season. Turner has missed five consecutive games with a right elbow injury (see full recap).

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that it’s not going to be easy.”