By Joey Zocco
If you pair excellent three-point shooting with a ton of free throws, you get what we saw from the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals. A first half that set records for the greatest scoring half in NBA Finals history was enough to fend off the Golden State Warriors and extend the series at least one more game, 137-116.
— NBA (@NBA) June 10, 2017
The Cavaliers made three less three-pointers (13) than the Warriors attempted (16) in the first half to build up an 18-point lead at the intermission. The same can be said for the free throw disparity, as Cleveland’s 17-made free throws was just one less than Golden State attempted through the first 20 minutes.
The foul disparity evened out in the second half, but the three-point makes did not. The Cavs made a Finals record 24 three-pointers in Game 4, shooting 53.3 percent from deep, always seeming to hit a shot when the Warriors attempted to make a run. Golden State never led in Game 4, and were unable to get the deficit any closer than 11 in the final quarter.
“First of all, I give them a ton of credit,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “They made some tough shots. They made 24 threes, and we knew we weren’t going to keep them quiet from the three-point line for the whole series. They made some tough shots, but we were not sharp defensively. It’s always a combination.”
— NBA (@NBA) June 10, 2017
The Cavs Big 3 all came to play for the first time this series, combining for 94 points in Game 4, and at times it was fair to think that wouldn’t be enough. The Warriors trailed by 16 or more points after the first quarter Friday night for the just the fifth time in the last two seasons. Three of those occurrences have come against Cleveland.
Now, with the series 3-1 in favor of Golden State, the Warriors head home for Game 5 searching for answers on how to slow down this Cavaliers offense that has caught fire since being home for games 3 and 4. Kyrie Irving was fantastic all game, scoring a game-high 40 points including seven threes.
LeBron James recorded his ninth NBA Finals triple double, the most ever by a single player in the Finals. James also moved into third on the Finals all-time scoring list with his 31 points, 11 assists and ten rebounds. Love added 23 points and six threes.
“We made a few changes after Game 2, especially on the defensive end,” Love said. “We knew if we pushed the ball, those guys play downhill. We hit our three and got good looks. I mentioned we wanted to throw a haymaker tonight. We felt like we did that. We got into the ball, we forced them into tough shots, and it got a little bit chippy, so we wanted to change the game in a few different ways.”
It took a barrage of threes from the Cavaliers to build their largest lead of the Finals (nine points) early in the first quarter of Game 4. Red-hot shooting allowed Cleveland to score a Finals record 49 points in just the first 12 minutes, and they missed eight free throws, but that does not mean the Warriors had a bad game.
Golden State scored 68 points in the first half on nearly 61 percent shooting from the floor, and found themselves down 18 points. Even though they were unable to close the margin to single digits in the second half, the Warriors were never able to begin to put the pressure on the Cavaliers. Golden State finished 11-39 from three.
Kevin Durant scored 35, but got no help as Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all were held under 20 points. Those four Warriors shot a combined 9-for-34 from behind the arc, unable to find a rhythm.
While Durant got no support, it was the role players for the Cavaliers who did finally step up. JR Smith was on the mark from downtown for the second-straight game, scoring 15 points on five threes. Tristan Thompson made his presence felt on the court as well, snatching ten rebounds in Game 4 after only recording only 11 rebounds through the first three Finals games.
“We just have to bring it (in Game 5), however we do it,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said. “Tristan was great, JR has been great these last two games. These guys got us here, and I’m sticking with my guys. I’m not going to change my lineup. We have to bring the same intensity and effort into Golden State on Monday.”