During their last two games, the Golden State Warriors put on stuttering performances ending in desperate shooting streaks that nearly put them back in the running each time. Nearly. MVP Stephen Curry seemed a shadow of himself during the proceedings, seemingly unable to answer the Cleveland Cavaliers until hitting his stride when it was already too late. After Game 3, Curry told media that maintaining the level of play on display at the end of those ill-fated games would be the Warriors’ key to beating the Cavs.
Tuesday night, Curry proved himself right.
After two straight losses, the Warriors rediscovered their league-best offence and utilized their unmatched depth to win Game 4 of the series 103-82. Tied at 2-2, the likelihood of the series stretching to seven grueling games has increased dramatically as the Finals head back to the Bay Area.
“Tonight we came in with the mentality that … we had to win this game. It was about effort and consistent effort every possession,” Curry told media after the game. “So we gave ourselves a shot, and shots go in. Everybody starts to feel good. You pick up some momentum, and you get a big road win.”
Curry was back to his old self that night, putting up 22 points, two rebounds and six assists on top of 47.1 per cent shooting from the field and 57.1 per cent shooting from beyond the arc.
The game began with Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr shaking up his starting line-up, which has remained exactly the same for the last 18 playoffs games. Turns out, change is good. Andre Iguodala was given his first start of the entire year and rewarded Kerr’s decision by matching Curry’s 22 points. He also shined on the defensive end, helping hold the Cavs down to a post-season low of 82 points.
“The thing that makes him dynamic is he’s probably one of the smartest and best passers out of all the scorers,” said Iguodala of defending against LeBron. “But the foundation is the same. Make him work as hard as possible. Make him take tough shots. You look at his strengths, his weaknesses, which way he wants to go, which way he prefers to play, and you try to just take him out of his comfort zone. Sounds easier said than done, but we all have a lot of talent on the court, and when we go out there, we want to make our stamp on the game.”
With 4:03 left in the first quarter, Klay Thompson earned the Warriors their first edge over Cleveland since Game 2. Draymond Green kicked in another 17 for the team as Golden State kept the fight wire-to-wire until the fourth, when they cracked the game wide open. They won in possession of a 23-point lead, the largest either team has had to face in this series.
Partly to blame for the loss is star man LeBron James’ performance, which was uncharacteristic for a player 26 field goals short of becoming the sixth man in NBA history to reach 5,000 career playoff points. James didn’t sink a single shot the fourth quarter. In fact, he scored only 20 points in his 41 minutes on the court—well below his average of 41 this series.
“Coach Kerr did a great job of mixing the line-up up,” said James. “We couldn’t make any shots from the outside.”
Perhaps something shifted after he took a spill into a camera in the first half, requiring stitches. (It’s not bad, according to coaching staff and LeBron himself.) It couldn’t have helped that Matthew Dellavedova, LeBron’s new sidekick, was battling cramps throughout his 10-point game after being hospitalized the night before for dehydration. The team as a whole shot 33 per cent from the field. Cleveland Cavaliers Coach David Blatt said he sensed a notable slowdown after his team’s third game in five days.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” said Blatt. “Go back to work, continue to believe in ourselves, play the best basketball we can, and try to win this thing.”
‘If you can bend and not break, you’ve always got a chance.’
‘It means everything to get this win for this franchise, for our city, for Cavs fans all over the world.’
‘If we win every game at home we’ll be alright in the series, so that is a start.’