The Cleveland Cavaliers are finally on the board in the NBA Finals, winning Game 4 137–116 thanks to an absurd shooting night that led to one of the greatest offensive displays in NBA postseason history. The Cavs launched three after three on Friday night, ultimately connecting on 24-of-45 from downtown, which is the single biggest reason they were able to steal a game from the juggernaut Warriors.
After struggling from outside in Game 3, Cleveland set a Finals record with their 24 three-point makes Friday. It didn’t matter who was shooting. LeBron James (3-of-8), Kyrie Irving (7-of-12), J.R. Smith (5-of-9) and Kevin Love (6-of-8) all hit multiple treys, with Kyle Korver and the zombie remains of Deron Williams also contributing. The result was an offensive explosion that led to the most points ever in a Finals first quarter (49) and the most points ever for a Finals first half (86.)
Irving, who scored 40 points along with seven rebounds and four assists, was spectacular for the second straight game. His range was the entire gym, and he hit pull-up shot after pull-up shot, while also finding time for balletic finishes at the rim. James continued his own assault on the record books, recording his second triple double (38 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists) of the series, giving him the most (nine) in Finals history. (James can also become the first player to average a triple double in the Finals if he continues this pace, and he seems to have no intention of slowing down.)
Can Cleveland shoot like this again in Game 5? Probably not. But the Cavs’ effort in Game 4 was superb, when it could have been extremely easy to fold with everything stacked in Golden State’s favor. There is something to be said about pride in games like Friday night’s. Cleveland’s focus was razor-sharp from opening tip to the waning seconds, and instead of players dreaming about their summer vacation, they refused to let Golden State complete a perfect postseason.
The Warriors weren’t helped by early foul trouble on Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant was a beast for the fourth straight game, and he remains the favorite for Finals MVP. But he was let down by his fellow All-Stars in Game 4, with Curry only chipping in 14 points on his way to a minus-25 in his 38 minutes on the court. Green bricked numerous wide-open threes, and was outshined by Love, who has actually been outplaying him for much of this series.
Golden State picked the worst possible night to struggle from three, where they are usually connecting on backbreaking makes. The Warriors hit only 11-of-39 shots from beyond the arc, and that was ultimately the biggest difference in the game. Curry and Thompson made eight shots combined the whole night, which is only one more than the number of threes Irving hit by himself.
The series, of course, now shifts back to Oakland. The Warriors have a 3–1 lead. Could lightning strike twice? If the Cavs keep hitting 53.3% of their threes, anything is possible. Most likely, Golden State still closes out this series in five. But Cleveland refused to go down on its home floor in Game 4, and if nothing else, the Cavs proved the Warriors are, in fact, beatable.