LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up for a dunk in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals. Photograph: (Reuters)
A LeBron James-powered Cleveland Cavaliers broke a raft of Finals records to open their account in the title-deciding playoff
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James unleashed a historic scoring spectacle Friday to power defending champion Cleveland over Golden State 137-116 in the NBA Finals, ending the Warriors' bid for a perfect playoff run.
Irving scored 40 points, hitting 15-of-27 shots from the floor and 7-of-12 3-pointers, while James added 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to pull the Cavaliers within 3-1 in the best-of-seven championship series.
"The magnitude of the game, it hit me in a very deep place," Irving said. "You want to play extremely well and you understand that's a do-or-die game."
No team has escaped a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series in 126 tries and the Warriors can claim the crown by winning game five at home on Monday in Oakland, California, but the Cavs made the greatest NBA Finals comeback last year from 3-1 down to beat the Warriors.
"The job is still far from over," Irving said. "We're still in a hole. But this is a good start."
Opening the game with the highest-scoring quarter and half in NBA Finals history, the Cavaliers became the first finals team trailing 3-0 to force a fifth game since the 1996 Seattle SuperSonics.
"At the end of the day we've just got some resilient guys," James said. "We're battle tested, they're battle tested. And getting swept is something that you never want to have happen. You hate to get swept, lose two games on your home floor. So I think a lot of guys had that in their mind today, and they came out and played like it."
The defending champion Cavaliers snapped Golden State's NBA-record post-season win streak at 15 games. The Cavaliers shot 24-of-45 from 3-point range, setting a finals record for 3-pointers and ending one shy of matching the league's all-time record.
"We were in attack mode," James said. "It's going to be even tougher in game five. But we look forward to the challenge."
The ninth career NBA Finals triple-double by James broke the all-time record he shared with Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. No one else has more than two.
Kevin Durant led Golden State with 35 points while Draymond Green added 16 points and 14 rebounds and Stephen Curry had 14 points, but the Warriors -- who never led -- could not manage the ninth sweep in finals history.
"It would have (been special)," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "You can't hold on to it. It's gone. It's over with -- 16-1 sounds pretty damn good anyway. Forget about that undefeated talk. It's time to put on a show for our fans."
'Cavs in Seven'
Cleveland led 49-33 after the first quarter and 86-68 at half-time, the Cavaliers setting scoring records for any half or quarter in finals history. Irving had 28 points at half-time with 22 from James and 17 from Love.
The old mark of 81 points in a half was set by the 1982 Philadelphia 76ers.
A physical third quarter featured five of the game's seven technical fouls, two from heated talk between Durant and James after Love fouled Durant, another on Green that appeared to see him ejected before it was revealed that an earlier technical on him had instead been issued to Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
"It was just an incredibly physical game," Kerr said. "Ton of fouls called early, a lot of holding and grabbing and pushing and shoving. It got out of hand a little bit, and the third quarter it seemed like the game was stopping every time."
Asked about the weight of trying for playoff perfection, Kerr said, "I don't think there was any concern or thoughts about history. I think it was we played a desperate team on their home floor, a great team, with great players, and they came out and handed it to us."
A James 3-pointer put Cleveland ahead 115-96 entering the fourth quarter. James rested for the first 97 seconds of the fourth quarter but two quick Warriors' 3-pointers hastened his return as Golden State surged within 115-104.
But they never got closer.
Cavaliers fans were chanting, "Cavs in seven" in the final minutes. It's the same phrase J.R. Smith had posted on his Twitter feed, which he said was hacked.
Now he says that's not an impossible notion, a comeback to outdo the greatest comeback they made a year ago.
"I wouldn't say it's out of the question," he said. "If we play like we did tonight, it's very possible."