CLEVELAND – If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the NBA playoffs has an equally humble proverb: the journey back from a 3-0 deficit begins with one victory.
The Cleveland Cavaliers – led by their Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – showed they have offensive firepower and finally got a victory in the NBA Finals with a 137-116 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 on Friday.
Cleveland avoided a sweep, extended the series at least one more game and gave the Warriors their first loss of the 2017 playoffs, preventing Golden State from becoming the first team in NBA history to go through the postseason unbeaten.
Irving scored 28 of his 40 points in the first half and James finished with 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. James recorded his ninth Finals triple double, passing Magic Johnson for No. 1 on the all-time list, and passed Michael Jordan for No. 3 on the all-time Finals scoring list. He trails just Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Kevin Love added 23 as the Cavs' Big Three combined for 94 points in Cleveland’s most complete offensive game of the series. J.R. Smith added 15 points – all on three-pointers.
The Cavs set an NBA record for points in a quarter (49 in the first) and points in a half (86) and shot 52.9% from the field, including 53.3% on three pointers. Cleveland made a Finals-record 24 three-pointers.
Cleveland generated its first double-digit lead of the series in the first quarter and its first 20-point lead of the series in the second.
But few leads are safe against the Warriors, who trailed 115-104 with 9:39 left in the fourth. Unlike Game 3, where the Cavs frittered away a lead in the final minutes.
It was an entertaining, interesting and confusing game. Kevin Durant and James exchanged words in the third quarter for an extended time.
Emotions were high, and it was not the finest game for the three referees officiating the game. On the official box score, Draymond Green was given a technical foul with 1:55 remaining in the first quarter. With 6:18 left in the third quarter, ref Marc Davis issued Green a technical, which would’ve been his second and an automatic ejection. But referee John Goble, calling his first Finals game, told ABC’s broadcasting crew of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson that the first half technical was on Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
The scorer’s table officials all agreed the first-quarter technical was given to Green, ABC’s Doris Burke reported. Green remained in the game.
Minutes after that confusion, it appeared Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia punched at Iman Shumpert's groin area while players fought for a loose ball. Pachulia and Shumpert were given double technical fouls.
Seven technical fouls and one flagrant foul were called in a game that started shortly after 9 p.m. ET and didn’t end until after midnight.
Game 5 is Monday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), and the Cavs know they face what so far has been an insurmountable task. No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit in NBA playoff history and won the series.
But as it is, the Cavs head West down 3-1 – same as they did a year ago when they came back from a 3-1 hole and won the championship. James has won a road game in 29 consecutive playoff series and gets a chance to extend that streak
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