CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – As the final minutes ticked away Friday night, Quicken Loans Arena erupted with chants of “Cavs in 7.”
There’s a long way to go to even entertain that thought, but the Cavaliers crashed Golden State’s planned coronation Friday night by unloading a barrage of three-pointers and dialing up their physicality to force a Game 5 Monday night and ending the Warriors 16-0 bid.
For one night in these Finals the Cavs finally showed what made them champions last June with a resounding 137-116 victory in Game 4 in front of a sellout crowd that reached decibel levels that rivaled a jet engine.
“We have championship DNA,” LeBron James said. “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.”
Cleveland hit an NBA Finals record 24 three-pointers, scored a Finals record 49 points in the opening quarter and dropped an astounding – and another Finals record – 86 points in the first half.
The Warriors got cocky after dismantling the Cavs in the first 2 games in Oakland by a combined 41 points and then reeling off the final 11 points of the fourth quarter to steal Game 3.
Well, they finally got burned.
“We see everything. I’ll be sitting up here lying saying that I didn’t see it,” Kyrie Irving said of some of the trash talk coming from Golden State. “But I relish in that challenge. I know my teammates do as well. So it’s been going back and forth all season, and now we’re in The Finals and everything is just pinpointed. But [we] definitely heard the chatter.
Irving cut through Golden State’s defense like a hot knife through butter scoring 40 points, including hitting 7 threes.
“We’re still a special team as well. We are here for a reason,” Irving said. “We’re going against a juggernaut of a team, but we’re a juggernaut of a team, too. We have some special pieces. And that belief has to not only just be in from an individual, it has to come collectively. So getting one tonight was a step in the right direction.”
James broke Magic Johnson’s Finals record with his ninth career triple double – 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – and the second of these Finals as he and the Cavs were determined not to allow Golden State to pop champagne in The Q.
“I didn’t hear it, but some of the other guys heard it and told me that they wanted to celebrate on our floor once again and they wanted to spray champagne in our locker rooms,” James said. “So I just told guys, I didn’t stress anything besides just live in the moment.”
The Cavs, never trailed Friday night and they outplayed the Warriors from start to finish.
“Nobody wanted to go home, especially on your home court,” J.R. Smith, who hit on 5 of his 9 3-point attempts to finish with 15 points, said. “Fortunately, we came out with the win.”
They showed grit, heart and some fight too.
At total of 7 technicals – 4 on Golden State and 3 on the Cavs – and a flagrant foul on Kevin Love, who scored 23 points and had 5 rebounds, were handed out.
Things got heated in the third quarter when Warriors center Zaza Pachulia hit Iman Shumpert in the groin and moments later while the officials were sorting things out a fan was ejected for harassing the Golden State bench. Kevin Durant and LeBron James exchanged pleasantries and then there was the whole Draymond Green technical fiasco too.
“It’s The Finals. Guys are going to talk. We’re going to respond but they aren’t going to punk us,” Tristan Thompson, who finally made his presence felt by pulling down 10 rebounds after getting just 11 in the first 3 games combined, said. “Not me. They’re not about to punk Tristan Thompson. You got the game [expletive] up with that one. You can talk all you want but I’m definitely going to bark back.”
When the final horn sounded the Warriors had to put the bubbly away, pack up their celebratory t-shirts and take it all with them back to Oakland.
“Believeland is not going to give up,” head coach Tyronn Lue said, “and we’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep scrapping.”
Unfortunately for the Cavs, Friday night’s win may be too little too late after digging themselves what appears to be an insurmountable 0-3 hole, but for whatever reason this team is only at their best when their backs are against the wall.
In 126 previous playoff series, none have ever come back to win, including 12 times in The Finals, and only once has a team that fell behind 0-3 in a Finals forced a Game 7, and that was 66 years ago when the Knicks pushed Rochester to the limit before the Royals finally prevailed back in 1951.
“Well, we have to come back home, so we might as well come back with a win,” Lue said. “That’s our mentality. We know it’s a tough environment to play in. We played well there before, so if we have the same approach that we had tonight.”
A year ago the Cavs stunned everyone by becoming the first team ever to erase a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win the final 3 games and end 52-years of sports torment for a city that is identified nationally by the success – or lack of – of its sports franchises.
But here we are once again at 3-1.
Right where the Cavs want the Warriors, right?
“No. They got us where they want us,” James said.