Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors
2017 NBA Finals – Game Four
UPCOMING MILESTONES: With just two points, LeBron James passes Michael Jordan for third on the NBA scoring list. In addition, with three more free throws, LeBron James passes Michael Jordan for the most in NBA playoff history. With one three-pointer, Iman Shumpert will have made the 7th most in Cavaliers franchise history – passing Mo Williams – and with three steals, he will have claimed the 7th most in franchise history – passing Craig Ehlo. Finally, J.R. Smith is 6 shots away from making the 7th most in Cavaliers playoff history – passing John Williams.
The Cavaliers find themselves faced with an almost insurmountable task, now down 0-3. No team in history has ever come back from three down to win a best-of-seven series in the NBA. Just one more loss, and the Cavaliers post season is ended short of their title goals. While some just are hoping to prevent a sweep, the outside chance of eventually forcing a Game Seven and claiming the title still remains – before last year, no team had ever come back from a 1-3 deficit either. Notably, only three teams in history have forced a Game Seven after staring 0-3, and just one managed to do this in the Finals – the New York Knicks vs the Rochester Royals in 1951.
In Game Four, the Cavaliers found themselves up by six with 3:09 remaining, but went scoreless over the remainder of the game while the Warriors tacked on 11 points. The Cavaliers outscored the Warriors in two quarters – 29-28 in the 2nd and 33-22 in the 3rd. However, with the Warriors winning the first quarter 39-32, and finishing off the game 29-19, it wasn’t enough. Four of the Cavaliers five starters were outscored while on the court – Tristan Thompson (-5), J.R. Smith (-8), Kyrie Irving (-9), and Kevin Love (-11). The only starter with a positive +/- also had the largest differential – LeBron James with +7. In essence, the Cavaliers outscored the Warriors by 7 in the 45:37 minutes that LeBron James was on the court, but were outscored by 12 in the 2:23 minutes where he sat. One of the worst aspects of Cleveland’s game was their inability to hit open shots. On uncontested looks, they shot just 34.8%, a lot worse than the 54.5% they shot when contested.
Tristan Thompson continued to struggle, recording just three rebounds and zero points in 23:05 minutes. Kevin Love made just a single shot out of his 9 attempts, though did managed to add 13 rebounds. Kyrie Irving, while 16/22 (72.7%) inside the three-point arc, missed all seven shots he took outside of it. Just like in Game Two, though, the Cavaliers managed to force turnovers on defense, which they turned into 22 points. On rebounds, the Warriors once again came out strong, pulling down 44 to the Cavaliers’ 37.
Three keys for Game Four will be: (1) Play stronger off the glass. In the past two games, the Warriors have outrebounded the Cavaliers. In Game Three, Stephen Curry (13) had over four times the rebounds that Tristan Thompson had (3). (2) Continue to take the ball inside the paint. When less than three feet of the hoop, the Cavaliers shot 28 shots and made 71.4% (20). In comparison, they shot 27 shots from 20-24 feet, and only made 25.9% there (7). (3) Continue to pressure the ball on defense. In back to back games, the Cavaliers have netted extra possessions by forcing the Warriors into more turnovers than them. In Game Three, Cleveland scored 22 points off of these turnovers. Finally, the Warriors shot 5.6% worse when their shots were contested compared to the 51.4% they shot uncontested.
Key players to watch for on the Warriors will be Stephen Curry (averaging 28.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per playoff game), Kevin Durant (averaging 27.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per playoff game), and Draymond Green (averaging 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per playoff game).
Tipoff is set for 9:00 EST and will be broadcast on ABC.