The Golden State Warriors once again hold a 3-1 Finals lead over a hungry, desperate Cleveland Cavaliers team.
The Cavaliers, days after melting down the stretch in a pivotal Game 3, punched back with a big 137-116 win that in some ways, felt like the awakening of the Finals.
The game was a strange one, featuring an historic offensive explosion from the Cavs, and then some increasingly sloppy, physical play as both teams seemed to get under each other’s skin.
Much like Game 3 of the 2016 Finals, the Cavs jumped out to a big lead, playing with the type of force the Warriors seemed ill-prepared to handle. The Cavs racked up 49 points in the first quarter, an NBA record, while still missing eight free throws. Their offensive eruption continued in the second quarter, as they maintained a double-digit lead over Golden State by hanging 86 points on them in the first half.
However, it is the second half that will be remembered by most. The Warriors clamped down (relatively) speaking, and the game got chippy, first beginning with a bizarre sequence between Draymond Green and the officials.
In the third quarter, Green was called for a light foul on Kevin Love, then reacted, tossing his hand at a referee in anger. The refs called Green for a technical, his second of the game after he was given a technical for elbowing Iman Shumpert in the first half. Or so it seemed. Here’s the play:
The Cavs shot a technical free throw, but the refs did not eject Green (as is the rule after two technicals). The refs later explained that the score sheet — which showed two technicals on Green — was marked wrong and that the first-half technical foul was actually on Steve Kerr for reacting angrily to the foul call on Green. Green remained in the game, as did Kerr, both with a technical apiece.
Play continued, but only momentarily. Later in the third quarter, while battling for a loose ball, Shumpert ended on top of Zaza Pachulia. While trying to rip the ball from each other, Pachulia appeared to deliberately swipe up at Shumpert’s groin, setting off a small altercation between the two players.
Surprisingly, Pachulia was not called for a technical or flagrant foul.
There were other moments, too. Dahntay Jones of the Cavs was called for a technical foul in the first half for yelling at Warriors players from the bench. Kevin Love was called for a flagrant foul on Kevin Durant. Refs reviewed a potential flagrant on Green on Tristan Thompson during a rebound. Even LeBron and Durant got into it!
In total there were seven technicals in an affair that felt similar to last year’s seven-game slug-fest.
But perhaps the most important number was 53 — as in 53%, the Cavs’ accuracy from behind the three-point line. After losing Game 3, in part, because of lacklustre shooting, the Cavs were on fire from deep in Game 4, getting a combined 18 three-pointers from Irving, Love, and J.R. Smith. Also helping matters: the 71 combined points from Irving and James, coming after scoring 77 together in Game 3.
The Cavs now have to go back to Oakland and play in what may be the toughest games of their careers. The Warriors will want to wrap up this series and the Oakland fans will be ready. Last year’s Cavs answered the call in Game 5 in Oakland while on the brink of elimination. Can they do it again?
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