NBA Finals: Game 4
Golden State Warriors 108, Cleveland Cavaliers 85
Series: Golden State wins, 4-0
• The story: The prohibitive favorites showed the world why that’s what they were in a commanding and dominant win. (Read more)
• The shot: Stephen Curry made seven three-pointers, but this one was the biggest. (Read more)
• Postgame reading: Catch up on all the latest story lines as the NBA Finals have unfolded. (Read more)
The Warriors were dominant Friday night, routing the Cavaliers, 108-85, to claim their third NBA crown in four years — all with Cleveland as their opponent. It was a performance befitting a team that will go down among the greats in the history of the sport.
A team that appears to be in the early stages of a dynasty, Golden State was ferocious on defense and seamlessly smooth on offense.
The Warriors produced seven steals and 13 blocks while defending and 14 three-pointers, 25 assists and just eight turnovers when they had the ball — evidence of what the team is capable of when focused, which Golden State clearly was in the clincher.
Most importantly, the Warriors’ two former MVP winners, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, were locked in. Curry had 37 points, making 7 of 15 three-pointers, while Durant followed up his 43-point performance in Game 3 with his first triple-double — 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists — in an NBA Finals game en route to being named the series MVP.
LeBron James, meanwhile, had 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes as his incredible playoff run came to a quiet end. He checked out for the final time with 4:03 remaining to a standing ovation, as well as an MVP chant from the fans inside Quicken Loans Arena.
The question now is whether it was James’s final home game for Cleveland, with free agency looming this summer.
For Golden State, though, Friday night’s victory moved the franchise into rarefied air. The Warriors’ successful title defense marked the 13th time in NBA history a team has won at least two in a row, and they became the seventh franchise to do so, joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons.
Claiming a third title in four years puts the Warriors in even rarer company. It has happened only six other times in NBA history — the last when the Lakers won three titles in a row from 2000 to 2002.
Still, the air of inevitability that came with this championship made for a different feeling than, say, how the Washington Capitals celebrated winning the Stanley Cup the previous night. While that was a joyous celebration after decades of heartbreak, the Warriors’ victory felt more like a relief after a long slog of a season, a result long expected and predicted before the season tipped off.
The weight of expectations has hung over this team from the moment the Warriors added Kevin Durant to a team that won an NBA-record 73 games but lost in the Finals two years ago.
Durant’s arrival propelled the Warriors forward a year ago. They cruised to 67 wins, then looked utterly dominant in posting a 16-1 record in the postseason, losing only Game 4 of the NBA Finals to the Cavaliers en route to the title.
This season, though, things were far different. Golden State suffered a rash of injuries. All four of their all-stars missed at least nine games, with Curry sitting for 37 — including six playoff games. Looking as if they were in second gear for most of the season, the Warriors won perhaps the most uninspiring 58 games in NBA history and ceded home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs to the Houston Rockets in the process.
That nearly wound up costing the Warriors dearly. Fourth-quarter collapses in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference finals allowed Houston to take a 3-2 lead in the series and moved Golden State to within a game of elimination. But the loss of Chris Paul to a hamstring injury in the final minute of Game 5 doomed Houston, and Golden State won Games 6 and 7 — despite trailing at halftime of each — to make it back to the Finals.
That brief moment of vulnerability, though, quickly fell away. Despite the sweep, Cleveland gave Golden State a stiffer test than expected — going to overtime in Game 1, which included a memorable gaffe by the Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith in the final moments of regulation, and forcing an all-time performance from Durant for the Warriors to pull out Game 3 — but the series had a sense of inevitability to all but the most die-hard of Cavaliers fans.
Now the focus shifts to the summer, which promises to be eventful for both teams. Golden State brought back 12 of the same 15 players from last year’s title team this year, but there probably will be significantly more turnover — retooling — this summer despite their continued dominance.
The summer in Cleveland, meanwhile, will be consumed with the status of James, whose next move surely will impact the entire NBA.
When the game ended, James — who congratulated the Warriors on the court as he went to the bench for the last time — walked straight down the tunnel to the locker room, stopping only to greet family members.
As the media waited to get into the locker room postgame, a stream of players exited before it was opened. Once it did, only a handful remained. One of them was James, who sat slumped in his corner locker, bags of ice on his knees and a towel over his face.
After a few minutes, he rose from his seat and disappeared into the back.
Dragging these Cavaliers through the Eastern Conference playoffs and returning to the NBA Finals for an eighth straight time — something no one has done since Bill Russell dominated the NBA in the 1960s — ranks as one of James’s greatest accomplishments.
But even James, as great as he is, wasn’t enough to prevent the Warriors from making history.
Let the dynasty discussion begin.
The only thing left to determine is whether Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant wins Finals MVP.
Otherwise, this game is over.
With an 86-65 lead after three quarters, the Golden State Warriors are less than 12 minutes away from a championship. And it seems impossible for them not to win it.
The 21-point advantage for Golden State is its biggest of the game, and it feels like it is about to get a lot bigger. The Warriors will have a rested Stephen Curry entering the game to start the fourth quarter, and a three touchdown lead.
Even LeBron James can’t come back from that.
Here is the story of this series, in a nutshell:
JaVale McGee and Shaun Livingston are a combined 29 for 35 from the field.
Kyle Korver and Jeff Green are a combined 8 for 36.
For as good as the Warriors’ stars are, their role players have been far better than than Cleveland’s. That simply isn’t good enough when you’re an underdog.
This bomb from Curry over LeBron James gave him 20 points, to go with four assists, at halftime, and pushed Golden State to a 61-52 lead at the break.
There are a lot of bad signs for Cleveland. Klay Thompson picked up three fouls and only took one shot in 11 minutes, going scoreless. Cleveland got 16 free throws to Golden State’s six, but missed six of them. Golden State is shooting 23 for 44 overall and 9 for 17 from three.
And still, after all of that, Golden State is up nine.
LeBron James has 16 points, three rebounds and five assists for Cleveland, but Kevin Love is 2 for 10, including 0 for 6 on two-point shots.
The game isn’t over, and Cleveland still has James. But the Warriors are the best third quarter team in the league for a fourth year running, and have more talent.
One more typical Stephen Curry third quarter explosion and the series could be over — and the Finals MVP award could be his.
Give the Cavaliers credit. In a game they could have laid down in multiple times, they are fighting tooth and nail with Golden State.
As a result, Cleveland has managed to climb back into a game they trailed by as many as 11, to the point where the Cavaliers took a lead for the first time since it was 3-2 in the opening minute of the game.
LeBron James has 13 points and Kevin Love has nine for Cleveland, which is shooting 36 percent, yet leads thanks to 10 offensive rebounds and getting seven points off Golden State’s three turnovers.
The Warriors got off to a near perfect start in Game 4.
Shooting 59 percent overall, 60 percent from three and committing just two turnovers, Golden State has jumped out to a 34-25 lead after one.
With Stephen Curry (12 points on 4-for-6 shooting) and Kevin Durant (eight on 4 for 8) both getting going early, the Cavs look like they’re in trouble.
And, just like that, Golden State has jumped back out to an 11-point lead after an 11-2 run in the first quarter.
Stephen Curry is already 4 for 5 for 12 points, and looks on a mission to capture his first Finals MVP award. He’s already pulled up twice for threes — once in transition, and the other time when he attempted to draw a foul on a three, yet still managed to throw it in.
Curry, remember, went just 1 for 10 from three in Game 3.
After falling behind 13-3, the Cavaliers have begun to claw their way back into this game, scoring eight straight points to cut Golden State’s lead to two, and force Steve Kerr to call a timeout.
Golden State momentarily looked like it had a chance to put the pedal down and blow this game open, and potentially put Cleveland away for good.
But a LeBron James team is always going to be tough to beat in an elimination game, and that’s proving to be true again here.
Could the rout be on? It sure feels like it.
Stephen Curry already has nine points and an assist, and Golden State is out to a quick 13-5 lead. Cleveland has missed four of its first five shots, while Golden State has gone 4 for 6.
The Warriors look like a team on a mission – and Curry looks like a man on a mission to win Most Valuable Player in this series.
There is an air of inevitability in the air here inside Quicken Loans Arena.
Can the Cleveland Cavaliers change that?
Trailing 3-0 in the NBA Finals for a second straight season, the Cavaliers now have to find a way to win Game 4 Friday night just to push this series back to Oakland for Game 5 Monday night.
Last year, though, Cleveland had Kyrie Irving at its disposal. And, in Game 4, Irving had 40 points and went 7 for 12 from three-point range as the Cavaliers scored 49 points in the first quarter and 86 in the first half to give Golden State its first loss of the playoffs.
That same energy doesn’t feel present tonight, though. Everyone in Cleveland seems resigned to the outcome that Golden State will win this series, and likely do it tonight.
The first quarter — while always important — could tell the entire story. If Golden State gets off to a hot start, Cleveland could quickly fold. If Golden State lets Cleveland hang around, however, the Cavaliers could become motivated to make a game of it.
The other thing to watch will be Cleveland’s three-point shooting. The Cavaliers simply haven’t hit shots from deep since the beginning of the Eastern Conference finals. They hit 17 threes in Game 3 against Boston, but otherwise have been ice cold. In three games against Golden State, Cleveland is 28 for 95 from three-point range — a 29.5 percent clip.
Since the start of the East finals, the numbers aren’t much better — 94 for 301 (31.2 percent). Remove that one hot shooting night, and they’re even worse: 77 for 267, and 28.8 percent.
The Cavaliers had a hot shooting night last year in Game 4, and it got them their one win in the NBA Finals. They’ll need another one to erase the air of inevitability that hangs over the arena, and this city, tonight.