A loss. And big trouble.
Curry had 38 points, Thompson added 25 and the Warriors took a commanding 3-1 series lead. No NBA team has never lost the Finals after holding such an edge.
“It’ll be a fun 48 hours to wrap our minds around the opportunity we have in front of us,” Curry said. Game 5 is Monday in Oakland.
For all their vast talents, Curry and Thompson hadn’t been so hot in these Finals.
Curry was never held under 20 points in three consecutive playoff games until this series. He ended his slump with seven three-pointers and six assists at Quicken Loans Arena.
Thompson made four three-pointers, a change welcomed by him after averaging only 12 points while shooting 36.8% the first three games.
When Curry and Thompson hit back-to-back three-pointers in the third quarter — a rarity this series — one wondered if this was the beginning of the end for Cleveland, even though the Cavaliers still led by two.
Then Thompson hit another three-pointer, along with Andre Iguodala, and then Curry. This was Warriors’ ball, plain and simple.
Cleveland wouldn’t immediately go away. Not with so much on the line for LeBron James, who returned here in the summer of 2014 with one goal — the elusive NBA title for the city that hadn’t won anything of note since the NFL championship in 1964.
Curry and Thompson were simply too much for Cleveland.
James seemed frustrated toward the end of the game, exchanging words with Curry near the scorer’s table as the teams went to the bench for a timeout. Shortly before, James also had words with Draymond Green after knocking him to the ground and stepping over him.
“I’m all cool with the competition…but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard,” James said. “Being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family — some things just go overboard and that’s where it took it.”
Green also struck James lightly below the belt as James stepped over him. If the league retroactively affixes a flagrant foul to Green, he will be suspended one game for accumulating too many flagrant-foul points in the playoffs.
Harsh words aside, there wasn’t much joy for the Cavaliers in the second half of Game 4. Nor was there enough offense, after scoring 55 points to take a five-point halftime lead.
Kyrie Irving had 34 points and James scored 25 but his nine assists were almost canceled out by seven turnovers.
J.R. Smith scored only 10 points after a promising Game 3 and Kevin Love had a quiet 11 points off the bench after his one-game absence because of a concussion.
The Warriors also got it done with some defense down the stretch. Green blocked James’ shot down low and Thompson blocked Irving’s fastbreak attempt on the next possession during a key sequence.
But the story of the game was Golden State’s offense.
The Warriors never cooled from outside, making a Finals-record 17 three-pointers in 36 attempts (47.2%). Oddly, they made only 16 of 45 two-point attempts (35.6%).
Thompson chuckled when asked about one of Curry’s long-distance shots.
“I’m not really sure what three you’re talking about it,” he said. “There were a lot of them.”
The game was delayed a few minutes when a bare-chested man was tackled by security guards after running on the court with 1:12 to play. He had an anti-Donald Trump message written on his chest.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr was hopeful before the game, more than cognizant the Warriors got thumped by 30 in Game 3.
“I think what happened the other night, if that doesn’t get our team prepared to play, then there’s no words that I can use that will do the job,” he said.
Whatever words were used, they were effective. That and some slick shooting on a night the Warriors needed it.