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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.

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Markelle Fultz isn't cleared to play just yet.

The Sixers rookie was reevaluated Sunday for right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance and will be reevaluated again in approximately 2-3 weeks, the team announced. 

His return date will be based on how he handles training and practices. An examination by Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic, showed Fultz's soreness and muscle balance is improving. Fultz met with Kibler on Oct. 29 and has seen multiple shoulder specialists. 

The rehab plan is for Fultz to continue with physiotherapy treatment.

"Just the fact we expect to get back into full basketball activity soon," Brett Brown said after practice Sunday, "I don't know the exact timeframe of that, but the news is good in relation to the improvement of his shoulder, enough for us to put out a press release saying what I just said and look forward to bringing him into the team and playing basketball again."

The No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft has appeared in only four games this season, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists off the bench. He has been battling the shoulder discomfort since training camp, and his shot was visibly affected by it.

Fultz has been traveling with the Sixers. He is staying engaged with the team during his own pregame warmups, assisting with rebounding after practices and staying incorporated with teammates off the court. 

Bayless to return
The Sixers anticipate getting one player back from injury Monday.

Brown expects Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) will play against the Jazz. Bayless went through practice Sunday. Brown looks forward to having Bayless' veteran experience, playmaking, and on-ball defense back in the mix. Bayless has missed the last six games and doesn't plan to have any minute restrictions on his return. 

"It's feeling OK," Bayless said of his wrist. "It's feeling like it's ready to go. I'm excited to play and be back out there." 

Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) remain sidelined. As a result of all the injuries, guards T.J. McConnell and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot have seen a bump in minutes. 

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers received a crash course in top-caliber NBA basketball from the Warriors with two games in eight nights against the defending champions. 

Both were winnable games for the Sixers in the first half. Both were blown open by the Warriors in the third quarter. Both resulted in a Sixers loss.

This time, it was a 124-116 loss Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Instead of taking silver linings and pats on the back, the Sixers are absorbing lessons, tried-and-true experience-based lessons from competing against the best in the league and watching it slip away. 

“They didn’t flip a switch,” Joel Embiid said Saturday. “We were just bad in the third quarter. But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They were aggressive and they were physical with us, especially in the second half. They did what they had to do, and they got a win.”

Protect the third quarter
On Saturday, the Sixers scored a scorching 47 points in the first quarter and led the Warriors 74-52 at halftime. That edge far surpassed their one-point deficit in last weekend’s game and put them on a commanding path at home.

The Warriors quickly dashed any hopes of an upset by outscoring the Sixers, 47-15, in the third. Steph Curry scored 20 of those points. That quarter set the tone for a Warriors' comeback win. Similarly, the Warriors outscored the Sixers by 15 points in the third during their 135-114 victory on Nov. 11.

“After coming out of halftime, we knew what we were getting into,” Embiid said. “We knew that the first game, we knew that tonight, that needed to stay locked in. We didn’t do a good job the first time and then the second time we definitely didn’t do a good job.”

Play aggressive and smart at same time
The Sixers committed seven of their 12 turnovers in the third, which led to 14 of the Warriors’ 47 points. Ben Simmons echoed Embiid’s opinion of needing to be more focused. The rookie point guard also noted the Sixers should have been better with defensive assignments and played more aggressively. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from long-range and didn’t get to the foul line once in the third.

Simmons only attempted one field goal in the quarter. Brett Brown noted he played Simmons the entire second quarter and the first eight minutes in the third. The combination of a shorthanded eight-man rotation and the effects of coming off a West Coast road trip factored in. 

The Warriors, meanwhile, stayed cool and collected in the face of a 22-point halftime deficit. They bounced back to shoot 62.2 percent from the field in the second half. The Sixers noticed the Warriors’ unwavering self-assurance even as they fell further and further behind in the first half.

“There’s a confidence that they have in what they do and who they are that over the course of a full game," JJ Redick said, "if they play the right way, they’re going to have a chance to win."

Breaking the double team
The Warriors stifled Embiid in their first matchup (12 points). After watching his 46-point performance against the Lakers, which head coach Steve Kerr deemed “terrifying,” the Warriors knew they had to be extra cognizant of the big man, especially on his home court.

They once again swarmed Embiid with a double team, a defensive look he’s still adjusting to. Embiid felt the pressure. He committed three turnovers in the game-changing third quarter (five on the night). 

“I’m more impressed by what they do defensively,” Embiid said. “Especially for me, they really had me guessing. They double-teamed me the whole night, from the top, from the baseline, from the post fader. They really had me guessing.”

Remember what caused the loss
The Sixers had chances to hand the Warriors a loss, both at home and on the road. When they plan for the rest of the season, the months and months ahead, they can point to what they did right and just as importantly what went wrong in competing against a team as dangerous as the Warriors. 

"We feel good about how we played for large majorities of the game and then you just blink and you get hit in the mouth," Brown said. "The repetition of playing the NBA champs and feeling like you're there and then all of a sudden to zoom in and say why aren't we? Why weren't we? Where did the game change? And understand that better and try to fix it, try to arrest it. That's the benefit to playing them in close proximity."