If Game 5 is the end of the 2017 NBA Finals, then last night Cleveland and their loyal fans had their night to remember.
Late last night an elated crowd poured out of Quicken Loans Arena and filled the streets of downtown Cleveland after watching their team take down the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Even though the Cavaliers still trail the series 3-1, there is an overwhelming sense of relief from the fan base after their team refused to throw in the towel and provided many memories, even if the Cavaliers ultimately fall to the Warriors.
The biggest key going into Game 4 was that the Cavaliers would need to get off to a quick start, or they would be in trouble against the high-powered Warriors offense. Right out of the gates the Cavaliers had the Warriors on their heals, scoring an NBA Finals record 49 points in the first quarter.
Kyrie Irving once again played spectacular basketball, shooting 15-27 (55 percent) from the field and 7-12 (58 percent) from beyond the arc. Throughout the game multiple defenders were thrown Irving’s way, but he shook them off one-by-one on his way to a 40 point performance.
Several times during the night Irving found himself guarded by one of the better wing defenders in the NBA, Klay Thompson, and time after time Irving made him look average with his plethora of jaw-dropping dribble moves.
In fact, Irving’s clutch performance put him on a very short list. He is just the third player since 1963 (LeBron James and Elgin Baylor are the other two) to record multiple 40 point games in an NBA Finals elimination game.
Not to be outdone, LeBron had himself yet another Finals game for the ages. His line of 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists gave him his ninth career NBA Finals triple-double, which is now the most in NBA history.
James’ highlight of the night came early in the second half when he brought the ball down the court and proceeded to leave his feet near the foul line and looked to dish the ball to one of the shooters on the perimeter.
However, with no good passing options, James took matters into his own hands and threw the ball off the glass, caught it and two-hand slammed the ball home. The crowd went into a frenzy.
While the performances by Cleveland’s two best players were spectacular, the reason why the Cavaliers looked like their old selves is because the rest of the team stepped up in a major way.
Kevin Love got back on track with a 23 point, 5 rebound performance. There was also a Tristan Thompson sighting for the first time in this series as he grabbed 10 rebounds and provided the physicality that was necessary to throw the Warriors off their game.
J.R. Smith left his shooting slump behind him, as his canned five three pointers, which electrified the crowd. The ageless wonder himself Richard Jefferson played solid defense on Kevin Durant and again provided a spark off the bench that the Cavaliers desperately needed.
And after going 12-44 from three-point range in Game 3, the Cavaliers turned that around in a big way, as they cashed in an NBA Finals record 24 three-pointers. If the Cavaliers want any shot at coming back in this series, they will need to have their role players hit shots on a consistent basis.
This game had the feeling similar to what turned out to be the turning point in last year’s series when the Warriors began to show their frustration on the court. Draymond Green, who has been quiet (with his play, not his mouth) seemingly threw a fit the entire game and appeared to be thrown off his game.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson also had a quiet nights. The two-time MVP shot just 4-13 from the field and 2-9 from beyond the arc, while Klay went 4-11 overall with all four of his makes coming from beyond the arc.
All night long the Warriors seemed to be off their game, and for the first time this series the Cavaliers finally took advantage of it. The crowd was fired up from the tip, chanting things such as “Draymond sucks” and “Cavs in 7.” It was an entertaining night if you were rooting for the Wine and Gold.
This series now shifts back to Oakland where once again the Cavs will have no room for error as they’ll face elimination in enemy territory. This is not last year, the Warriors have far more elite firepower and they are virtually unbeatable on their home floor.
So proceed however you choose to, there is definitely reason to have some hope after what Cavalier fans witnessed last night. However, if Game 5 is the end of the road for Cleveland, for at least one night Cavalier fans felt the elation that brought back memories of 2016’s magical run.