Cleveland 137, Golden State 116 (Warriors leads series 3-1)
Kyrie Irving was nothing short of phenomenal during Cleveland’s Game 4 win over Golden State on Friday, erupting for a game-high 40 points on 15-of-27 shooting (3-of-4 from the stripe) to go with seven boards, seven triples, four assists, one steal and three turnovers through 41 minutes of floor time. He set the tone early, scoring 28 of his 40 points through the first half of action on 11-of-14 shooting, and ended his evening with an impressive 69.5 true shooting percentage to accompany his 33.2 usage rate. Coming into Game 4, Irving had been struggling from long range, connecting on just five of his 17 attempts from beyond the arc (29.4 percent); but he seemingly couldn’t miss during Game 4, and the correction to the mean wasn’t all that surprising considering he knocked down 40.1 percent of his 3-point attempts during the regular season. In general, the Cavs just showed more heart during the Game 4 win, opening the contest with a 6-19 run, regularly diving to the floor for loose balls and consistently winning the 50-50 plays. They also set multiple NBA Finals records, registering 49 points in just the first quarter of action (most points ever scored through any quarter in Finals history), and 86 points by halftime (most points by a single team in the first half of Finals history); in addition to setting a new NBA Finals record for 3-points made by knocking down 24 triples.
LeBron James recorded the ninth triple-double of his Finals career (surpassing Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles in NBA Finals history), tallying 31 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and just two turnovers in 41 minutes. He also moved past Michael Jordan for the No. 3 spot on the all-time NBA Finals scoring list and there was a moment early on in the third quarter when LBJ seemed to feel it necessary to remind the world why his name is King James by throwing an alley-oop to himself off the backboard on a Cleveland fastbreak.
Kevin Love scored an efficient 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting (3-of-3 from the line) to go with six trey-bombs, five rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and one turnover in 29 minutes. He wasn’t all that great during last year’s championship run, but through the first four games of this year’s Finals, Love has contributed averages of 18.5 points, 11.5 boards, 3.0 triples, 2.5 steals, 1.0 block and just 1.3 turnovers per contest on 40.7 percent shooting.
J.R. Smith joined the Cavs in their assault from beyond the arc, knocking down five more triples (including a buzzer-beater from the logo) on his way to 15 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and zero turnovers in 29 minutes. Not only did Smith come through with his token 3-point shooting, but he also did an excellent job taking Stephen Curry out of the game with some very physical off-the-ball defense. Swish was flat out terrible through Games 1 and 2, but over the past two games he’s been much more active on both ends of the floor, and that trend will need to continue if the Cavs hope to have any shot of offering the world free Taco Bell tacos after Game 5 in Oakland.
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As for the Dubs, they were okay on offense and really bad on defense.
Kevin Durant scored 35 points on 9-of-22 shooting (15-of-16 from the stripe) to go with two treys, four boards, four assists, two blocks and one turnover in 39 minutes. KD missed a lot of makeable shots, but the loss had a lot more to do with some sloppy basketball and a lackadaisical effort on defense from Golden State as a whole, rather than a semi-inefficient evening for The Durantula.
The Cavs also did a very good job of taking Stephen Curry out of the game, blitzing him as soon as he’d cross the halfcourt line, and making his off-the-ball movement difficult with some very physical defense. He finished with 14 points (4-of-13 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs), two 3-pointers, five rebounds, 10 dimes, two steals and four turnovers in 38 minutes. Klay Thompson wasn’t much better, going 4-of-11 from the field and 1-of-2 from the stripe on his way to 13 points, four triples, three rebounds, two assists and one turnover in 34 minutes.
Draymond Green had a 16-point, 14-board double-double to go with one 3-pointer, three assists, two steals, one block and three turnovers in 39 minutes. While he did do a nice job cleaning up the glass and creating some second chance opportunities on offense with his O-boards (5), Green also rushed some things on offense in addition to missing more bunnies than Elmer Fud. There’s no denying that Green is an elite player, but when he gets up more shots than both Curry and Thompson; well, that’s just not a winning game plan.
Tempers flared late in the third quarter when Zaza Pachulia and Iman Shumpert fought for a loose ball, and Pachulia appeared to take a swipe at Shumpert’s lower-region. The play was reviewed with the end result being a double-technical (Shumpert was not pleased by Pachulia’s flailing), and while Pachulia was not ejected from the game, there is a possibility he could face further disciplinary actions from the league. I imagine Pachulia’s attack to Shumpert’s nether region will result in a hefty fine from the league, but I seriously doubt he gets hit with a suspension. Zaza is not Draymond, and what went down during Game 4 was not at all similar to was occurred during last year’s Finals when the league was forced to issue a one-game suspension to Green for his constant re-enactments of The Nutcracker.