The Cavaliers staved off elimination and kept their slim hopes of defending their NBA championship alive Friday night by doing something no team had done in this postseason — they beat the Golden State Warriors.
Kyrie Irving scored 40 points and LeBron James recorded his third straight triple-double, racking up 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, to lead the Cavaliers to a 137-116 win over the Warriors in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Warriors, who were 15-0 in this postseason, lead the series 3-1. They can close out the Cavaliers at home in Game 5 on Monday night.
No team has ever gone undefeated in the postseason, but if the Warriors win Game 5, they will end up 16-1. The 2000-01 Lakers currently hold the mark at 15-1.
Despite missing eight free throws in the first quarter, the Cavaliers scored 49 points in the period and 86 points in the first half, both NBA Finals records. Cleveland hit a Finals-record 24 3-pointers and attempted 45 shots from beyond the arc.
The game featured seven technical fouls, one flagrant foul, numerous puzzling calls by the officials and the ejection of a fan who exchanged words with some Warriors players near their bench.
The Cavaliers showed their championship mettle and played like a team that didn’t want its season to end, bringing a different intensity and energy.
Kevin Durant led Golden State with 35 points and Draymond Green had 16 points and 14 rebounds, but Steph Curry and Klay Thompson totaled 27 points and 8-for-24 shooting.
Kevin Love added 23 points for the Cavaliers, who now will try to become the first NBA team to erase a 3-0 deficit and win a playoff series.
They’re no strangers to unprecedented comebacks. Against the Warriors last year, they became the first NBA team to erase a 3-1 deficit in the Finals and win the championship.
But the Cavaliers enjoyed the perfect storm last year. The Warriors are much different, much more talented and determined to get that fourth win in the championship round. They also didn’t have Durant, who has been the MVP of the series thus far.
After leading by 16 at the end of the first quarter, the Cavaliers didn’t let up in the second. Irving shot 11 for 14 and scored 28 points and James was 7 for 11 and had 22 points in the first half.
The Cavaliers’ biggest lead in the second quarter was 22 points, but it was cut to 18 at the half when Durant hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Things got testy in the third quarter after Durant drove and got hit in the head by Love. Durant and James jawed at each other and were hit with double-technical fouls. Love was assessed a flagrant foul.
The Warriors got within 104-92 on Curry’s foul shot with 2:38 left in a bizarre third quarter that featured Green getting whistled for what appeared to be his second technical foul. That’s usually an automatic ejection, but Green remained in the game.
The referees said coach Steve Kerr received the technical in the first half, not Green.
Later in the third, a skirmish for a loose ball resulted in Iman Shumpert and Zaza Pachulia getting into it. As the referees reviewed the play — it appeared Pachulia took a swipe at Shumpert — some Warriors, including Matt Barnes, had words with a fan by their bench. The fan was ejected and escorted from his seat.
The Warriors opened the fourth quarter with eight consecutive points to cut it to 115-104.