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NBA Finals, Warriors up 3-1 heading into Monday night

No sweep here, no championship for Golden State in Cleveland Friday night as Cavaliers delight the home crowd with an impressive 137-116 victory 

But Warriors still up 3-1 when the series returns to Oakland Monday night and Cleveland chasing again

Arnie Leshin

By Arnie Leshin

Hoping to provide their home fans with something to cheer about, Cleveland came out with a vengeance in Friday night’s game four of the NBA finals.

Starting with back-to-back 3s from Kylie Irving and JR Smith, the Cavaliers totaled an NBA finals record 49 points after one quarter, and added 37 in the second for 86 points at halftime and another NBA finals mark.

All the right pieces were falling into place after dropping the first three games of the best-of-seven. It was 49-33 Cleveland after one, 86-68 at the half, and 137-116 at the finish over the Golden State Warriors.

With all this entertainment for the capacity crowd at Quicken Loans Arena that had little hope for a second-straight championship, the Cavaliers are still down three games to one, same as last year at this time. Again, they will have to win three-straight.

They abruptly put a halt to Golden State’s bid to become the first to go undefeated through the playoffs, but it could all come to an end when the Warriors are home Monday night in Oakland. To get back to Cleveland for game six, the Cavaliers will have to have a similar effort in order to keep Golden State from celebrating that night.

“We came out with a real good attitude and created some good shooting,” said Cleveland point guard Kyle Irving, who deposited a game-high 40 points. “We also got better support from others and played better defense.”

The first half was a combination of 6-foot-9 superstar LeBron James and 6-4 Irving. They combined for 50 points on 18-for-25 sharpshooting. Team-wise, it shot 65 percent over that span.

The 17-point lead in the opening quarter became 20 when Smith threw in a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer. He finished with five 3s in all and came away with 21 points. James did his usual contribution in his versatile manner, again putting together a triple-triple with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

“This was it,” James said as the suddenly happy home fans came to the conclusion that it wasn’t yet over. “We either win this one, go fishing, play golf, or become family men again. See you Monday.”

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There probably weren’t many brooms in evidence, and no sweep to celebrate on the Cleveland court.

When Golden State made a run in the third quarter, the Cavs responded and maintained a 115-96 lead heading into the last quarter. Again, Irving, James, Smith, and 6-10 Kevin Love did most of the damage. Love concluded with 23 points, nine boards, and tossed in some key baskets midway through the

It was a game played at a breakaway pace, and one that appeared to have more physical contact than a taekwondo tournament. For the first time, Cleveland played a full game, holding shooting guard Stephen Curry to 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting. But for the 6-10 Kevin Durant, who signed with Golden State before the season after spending his years with the Oklahoma City, it had no answers.

Durant scored a team-high 35 points, more than twice as many as any of his teammates. The 6-6 Draymond Green contributed 16 points and 14 rebounds after remarking before the game that these Warriors were going to celebrate in Cleveland.

For the most part, Cavaliers also played well in game three at home, but after leading throughout, they went from a 113-105 lead with 3:20 to go, to a 118-113 defeat. Games one and two in Oakland were won handily by the home team, 113-91 and 132-113.

This time, Cleveland made 46-of-87 attempts from the field, 21-of-31 free throws, and had 10 players in the scoring column. Golden State was 39-for-87 and 27-for-36. This was not necessarily accurate foul shooting, but in a heated contest like this, it can happen.

There were six technical fouls, three on each team. There were numerous physical encounters. Green and Inman Shumpert went at it after Shumpert took a shot to the midsection during a scrum. Both were assessed techs.

Later, Green was ejected, and quickly un-ejected after it was determined that an earlier technical was incorrectly given to him. When Duran picked up the much smaller Irving on a drive to the basket, Irving missed the shot and fell on his back. This brought Durant and James talking trash face-to-face until they were separated.

Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr, hampered by back problems and unable to coach until these last two games, knew he was in for a long night when he quickly rose and called time-out only 2 minutes and 44 seconds into the opening quarter.

But it did little good. With Irving continuing his variety of shot making and James pumping his fist, once, twice, three times after every big play, Cleveland was not to be denied this time.

“Look,” Kerr said, “they are a great team and really put it all together tonight. Now we have to regroup and win at home. Coming back here will give us room for thought.”

As game time approached, crowds began to form outside the arena, and ticket were still being scalped when it was announced that it was already a capacity crowd of 20,562. This, despite the general direction of the series putting a damper on the festivities, and the air seemed thick with resignation.

But here we are again, Golden State up 3-1 and poised to win its second title in three years, and Cleveland again having hope of overcoming this. Fact: 12 times a team has been down three games to none, and none found a way to win. But down three games to one has been accomplished as recently as last year’s finals.

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