CLEVELAND — After three duds, the NBA Finals produced an intense and compelling Game 4, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson finally showed up. It was a bad night for the Cavaliers’ offense to start their offseason.
The Golden State Warriors are a win from earning their second straight NBA championship after beating Cleveland, 108-97, to take a 3-1 series lead Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Curry scored 38 points and Thompson had 25 as Golden State handed Cleveland its first home loss in these playoffs. After taking a two-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers went nearly seven minutes without a field goal and wound up getting outscored 58-42 in the second half.
No team in Finals history has come back from 3-1 down to win a series. Unless the Cavaliers do that, LeBron James — who surprisingly didn’t attack as much as he had in Cleveland’s Game 3 win — will lose in the championship round for the third straight year.
The Warriors can close out the series at home in Game 5 Monday night. “It’s going to be our biggest game of the year,” Curry said. “This is a great opportunity for us. We need to play with a sense of urgency and sense of aggression like we had tonight.”
The first three games were decided by a total of 78 points, including a 30-point Cleveland win in Game 3. But that game woke up the Warriors.
“It was a great response after Game 3, when we were really embarrassed by our performance,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We felt threatened. Up 2-0, we felt for whatever reason, ‘We got this.’ They hit us in the teeth. We were threatened and we responded well.”
Curry and Thompson also responded well to all the criticism they received. Neither had scored 20 points in any game before Friday night. They got going in the third quarter, and each had at least 21 through three. They combined to shoot 11-for-22 from three-point range, and the Warriors made an NBA Finals-record 17 three-pointers in 36 attempts.
“We needed to bounce back individually and as a team to figure out how to get a win on the road and put ourselves in pretty good position,” Curry said.
Kyrie Irving scored 34 points and James had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. But he was uncharacteristically passive on offense for most of the night.
James got heated in the fourth quarter, though, during a dust-up with Draymond Green. They were banging, and after Green fell down, James stepped over him. Green appeared to hit James between the legs on his way up. They got tangled again, exchanged words and were called for double fouls.
James said Green went “overboard” with the things he said to him and believes the NBA should review the play and consider suspending Green for his below-the-belt hit. “I think the league will take a look at it,” James said. “We’ll see what they say.”
Things got more intense later in the fourth quarter as a shirtless male fan ran on the court with a negative message about Donald Trump written on his chest. He immediately was tackled and taken off in handcuffs.
The Cavaliers hoped to duplicate what they did in Game 3. Kevin Love returned after sitting out Wednesday night’s game with a concussion. But Love (11 points) came off the bench for the first time in six years and Richard Jefferson remained in the starting lineup.
It didn’t produce the same result, and with the game on the line, the Cavaliers went back to what hurt them in the first two games: too much dribbling and too many isolation plays.
After James’ dunk gave the Cavs an 83-81 lead 1:39 into the fourth, they mustered one free throw in the next 6:37. During the field-goal drought, Green rejected a layup attempt by James.
Irving finally scored inside with 3:45 left, but on the next trip, Curry buried a three-pointer for a 96-86 lead. After the Cavaliers cut it to 96-89, Curry scored on a driving layup to put the Warriors up by nine with 54.4 seconds left. Curry and Thompson then went 10-for-10 from the line in the final minute.