They’re not dead yet! After a historic night indeed, the Cavaliers stave off elimination and live to fight another day. “Fight” is the operative word, as Cleveland showed they were not about to watch their season end with a sweep. Let’s take a look at some mind-blowing statistics, how the Cavs found help from an unlikely uniform, and a few other takeaways as we try to digest what just happened.
First things first… I was wrong. The Cavs overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to move past Game 3 to excel in Game 4. Furthermore, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James showed incredible focus on and off the court as they try to claw out of this deficit day by day. Before I go any further, however, allow me to share some facts from Friday night:
-The Cavaliers’ 137-116 victory is the largest margin of this NBA Finals, as they continue to improve with each game.
-Cleveland’s 49 points in the first quarter (and only 5 came from James) is an NBA Finals record, and their 86 first half points is an all-time record.
-The Cavs’ 13 3s in the first half and 24 3s in the game broke the Golden State’s NBA Finals record that they set 5 days before.
-Kevin Durant scored over 30 for the fourth time, as the Warriors truly didn’t play a bad game by putting up 116 points.
-Irving’s ridiculous 40 points and James’s 31-point triple-double was finally enough to outscore the Warriors. So that’s what it takes every game!?
-There were 7 technical fouls and 1 flagrant in this grudge match, but more on that later.
With Cleveland’s offensive explosion in Game 4, fans and critics alike have shifted from, “Can the Warriors sweep?” to, “Can the Warriors still win?”. As crazy as that sounds, it might not be that far-fetched. I’m not saying to bet against GSW just yet, but there is definitely still a lot of hope and grit in Believeland. Their outburst and composure throughout the wild Game 4 was remarkable… but is it sustainable?
I would say not. With the referee’s calling foul after foul as the Warriors continued to be incensed with the multitude of technicals, the Cavs home court was a huge plus. As Cleveland’s physical play and the crowd’s jeers got under Golden State’s skin, things snowballed into chaos. The Cavs won’t get that same treatment in Oakland. Whether or not the refs take the game away from the players with their constant whistles, the raucous fans at Oracle Arena will make things 10x harder on the Cavaliers to find their groove.
Listen, it’s the Finals. Let ’em play! I know it gets testy when one team is a game away from the title, and the other has nothing to lose, but as a ref you have to understand the physical mindset of these powerhouses. This bitter rivalry will continue to swell, and while it’s important to keep things under control, dishing out technicals every 5 minutes isn’t the answer. As fans, we want to see the best players in the world battle it out for the trophy, so let them. Establish control at the beginning of the game and be consistent with the calls and show that there is no tolerance for all of the extra fanfare.
Back to my original point, the Cavaliers were able to overcome the many stoppages with the help of their fans backing them up. You can bet that Golden State is equally unhappy with the chaos the referees created. I mean, they gave so many technicals that they lost track of who they had assigned them to! On the game’s grandest stage, that’s utterly ridiculous. Anyway, in a worst case scenario, where the refs fail to recognize the gravity of the situation, the Warriors will have a 40,000 person swing to their side of the controversial calls. The question is… will Cleveland be able to stay focused and play the same way they did in Game 4?
Again, I think not. While it’s incredibly impressive that they were able to shoot at such a high clip despite the breaks in the action, they were helped by the Warriors’ fighting both the white jerseys and the striped jerseys. Also, there is no conceivable way that they will be able to knock down as many shots as they did in Game 4, especially on the road. In a hostile environment, it’s going to come down to defense and focus.
The Cavaliers will have to expect some missed shots and bad possessions. More than likely, they’ll find themselves trailing. In Game 4, Cleveland did a good job of answering the Warriors’ scoring runs with some of their own behind the support of their fans. With few and far between making the trip to California, the Cavs will have to depend on themselves alone to squeak out a victory.
It’s going to take more toughness, more composure, and plenty of more clutch plays. Knowing that they will not play as well as in Game 4, the Cavs have to make sure that the Warriors don’t either. There is a lot of variables in play, but if Cleveland can survive Game 5 on the road and come home for Game 6… we are once again looking at an epic NBA Finals.
Unfortunately, Game 4 might have been the last hoorah for this team. As impressed as I was, I’m just not sure I can see them bringing that mental toughness into Oracle Arena. It’s just too late. Expect another battle, but expect the Warriors to become champions on Monday night.