These NBA Finals were always about a great player taking on a great team.
It’s only fitting that Friday’s decisive Game 4 ended with a lackluster effort from all Cleveland Cavaliers not named LeBron James crumbling to the overwhelming force of the Golden State Warriors, who won their third NBA title in four years in dominant fashion with a 108-85 win.
Game 4 belonged to Stephen Curry. Coming off an abysmal Game 3 performance where he totaled 10 points and hit 1-of-10 3-point attempts, Curry came out firing from the opening tip to score 12 of Golden State’s 19 points.
Once he hit this deep, off-balance 3-pointer with J.R. Smith clipping his shoulder, it was clear that this game was his.Golden State opened the game laser-focused on the prospect of a sweep. The Warriors started the game on a 13-3 run, fixated on avoiding a repeat of last year’s Game 4 that saw Cleveland force the series back to Oracle Arena.
But the Cavs answered. Klay Thompson picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter, and Cleveland pounced on a chance to get back into the game, ticking off eight straight points to give the home crowd hope.
But the Warriors had a response, rolling off 11 unanswered behind a barrage of 3-pointers to take back control of the game. Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala all got in on the action from distance.
This was the rhythm of the game. The Cavs answered again, eventually taking a 39-38 lead midway through the second quarter. But Golden State took back the lead. Every time Cleveland worked its way back into contention, Golden State punched back with a bigger run.
Until eventually, the Cavs didn’t have an answer.
Cleveland couldn’t take advantage late in the second quarter when Curry, Thompson and Green all went to the bench, leaving Kevin Durant on the floor with a cast of role players. The best the Cavs could manage during the run was to cut the Golden State advantage to 56-52 with 1:20 remaining in the second quarter.
When Curry, who rejoined the lineup in for the final seconds of the half, hit a deep 3-pointer to finish the quarter strong and nudge Golden State’s halftime lead to 61-52, the game was essentially over.
Golden State lived up to its reputation as world-beaters in the third quarter, turning the game into a laugher. Thompson, Curry and JaVale McGee rattled off the first three buckets of the stanza, extending the lead to 67-52 and forcing the Cavs to take a timeout.
Cleveland never recovered. The Warriors outscored the Cavs 25-13 in the third. The Quicken Loans Arena crowd went silent. The coronation could have started right then and there.With 4:03 left in the game and Golden State leading 102-77, James bumped fists with Durant, Green and Iguodala to congratulate them on their championship and take what may be his curtain call with Cleveland.
Curry finished the game with 37 points, six rebounds and four assists while hitting 7-of-15 3-pointers. Durant posted a triple-double with 20, 12 rebounds and 10 assists en route to earning Finals MVP honors for the second straight year.
Green tallied nine points, nine assists, three rebounds, three blocks and a steal, while Thompson struggled for a second straight game after getting into early foul trouble, tallying 10 points to go with six rebounds. But that’s the beauty of Golden State. Maybe no team in NBA history has had the firepower to withstand off games from All-Stars like the Warriors and still win big games.
It was far from a classic Finals game from James. But his 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds was the only noteworthy performance of the night from a Cavs player. Even he seemed beaten down in the second half that saw just 33 points from the Cavaliers, seven coming from James.
There will be big questions to answer in the coming days and months. Have we seen James’ last game in a Cavs uniform? Will another team put together a roster to counter the competitive imbalance created the day Durant joined the Warriors?
But those are questions for another day. Tonight is about the latest chapter of a still-fledgling NBA dynasty celebrating its third championship in four years.