THE Warriors planned on celebrating after Game 4 with champagne in the visitors locker room. Instead those plans are on hold. Cleveland strung together a three point/scoring barrage we have never seen in the Finals before extending the series and prevnting the 16-0 Warriors shirts that were currently being crafted in an Indonesian factory. Surely they can’t pull off the impossible, right? Or do we have a series on our hands?
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THERE are fast starts and then there is what the Cavs did in the 1st half of Game 4. 49 1st quarter points, the most scored in any quarter in NBA Finals history, were poured in by Cleveland, and it could have been more had it not been for eight missed free throws. Part of it was thanks to Tristan Thompson who shook of the ‘Kardashian Curse’ to chew up five boards in that quarter and finished with 10 for the game. J.R. Smith also came alive on the offensive end to support his teammates canning threes like Ray Allen. That fast start continued in the 2nd quarter as the Cavaliers went on to score the most points an NBA Finals has seen in a half, leading 86-68 at the main break. Thats right, we live in a time were a team scored 68 points in a half and trailed by close to 20.
CLEVELAND went on to break another Finals record with 24 made three’s, shooting over 50% from the field and from deep. It wasn’t the same story for the Warriors though as Dub Nation put together their worst performance in the past few months. KD was his usual self with 35 points, but Steph Curry (4-13 for 14 points), Klay Thompson (4-11 for 13 points) and Draymond Green (6-16 for 16 points) all struggled. The latter trio combined to shoot an uncharacteristic 7-25 from three point land, effectively ending any chances of a comeback. Part of there poor shooting was because of the Cavs commitment to pressure them as they shot. Through the first three games Curry had 20 open looks (at an average of 6.7), but last night was only allowed one. The fact that Draymond took more shots than both of his All-Star teammates speaks volumes to how few looks the ‘Spalsh Brothers’ got.
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AND of course as the Warriors struggled the Cavs trio of stars lit it up. Kevin Love finished with six made three’s, Kyrie outshone the MVP guarding him dropping 40 points (with seven 3’s) and LeBron put up another triple double (31/10/11) giving him more than any player in Finals history. Numbers and statistics aside, the way the Cavaliers offense was run was the difference in this game. For the first time in the series they slowed down the tempo, controlling the pace with the possession count per 48 minutes under 100. The Cavaliers season average pace was 98.38 possessions per 48 minutes, while the run and gun Golden State teams average pace was the 4th highest in the league at 102.24. While it might not seem like a big disparity it’s no coincidence that the Warriors won all three games previously when the average pace was 104.77 per 48 minutes. Cleveland controlled the tempo from the outset, translating into seven made three’s in the opening period as they continued to move around, making the extra pass with LeBron at his playmaking best. He had six 1st quarter assists and continued to share the rock throughout the rest of the game. Including passing to himself….
THE Cavs can’t expect Golden State’s stars to stink it up like they did three more times in a row, but they proved me wrong, showing they can out gun the Dubs if they are on point. I’m not ready to claim that we have a series on our hands, but we have been given a glimpse on what can happen if Cleveland plays at full power. The Warriors need to treat Game 5 like it is a Game 7. If they slip up and drop Game 5 on their own court and the series shifts back to Game 6 in Cleveland, the Cavs and their home crowd will likely force a seventh game in the series. Golden State would then have all the pressure heaped on them and risk becoming the first team to blow a 0-3 lead in any NBA playoff series. I believe that things will end in Oakland on Monday night, yet trailing 3-1 has been favourable to LeBron in the past.
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