Game 4 of the 2017 Finals should have represented the absolute pinnacle of basketball achievement. Cleveland was on fire offensively last night. No, if and’s or butts about it. Offensively they came out and did what many said was impossible, outrun and outgun the Golden State Warriors. This is what should be magnified. Instead, the scoring records unrelated to the three-point shooting are about as hollow as Golden State’s 73-9 with no ring.
Cleveland led wire to wire enjoying a legendary barrage from behind the arc going a record setting 24-45 a sizzling 53.3% on three-pointers. The Cavaliers outscored the Warriors in every quarter and aimed to strike nostalgia and doubt while handing this Warrior team only its second loss since April 10.
In what started out to be a let them play officiated style series, Game 4 would take a rather interesting turn. A most conveniently officiated game saw Cleveland taking 22 foul shots in the first quarter and 26 in the first half.
To offer some perspective on how completely absurd that is think about this. There are 24 minutes in a half of NBA basketball. The shot clock runs off 24 seconds before loss of possession; theoretically, there is roughly time for 2.5 possessions per minute. So the Cavaliers averaged going to the free throw line slightly faster than once every minute. To take it a step further a team has to commit 5 personal fouls before the opposing team is put into the bonus and every foul thereafter results in a trip to the line. So the Warriors were called for over 15 fouls in 12 minutes.
For what appeared to be such a by the book rule enforcement from the referees, it’s rather curious the Warriors took exactly zero free throws in that very same first quarter. Ultimately the Warriors would attempt more free throws than Cleveland 36-31 but when a team facing elimination is playing at home they need a fast start. At the first quarter’s end, Cleveland built a historically insurmountable 49-33 lead.
In a closeout game with postseason perfection on the line, the number one defensive team in the league, starting defensive player of the year award favorite and nominee Draymond Green, gave up 49 points in the first quarter 86 points in the first half and 137 for the game. Once again to offer perspective on just how amazing Cleveland’s first half was, in Game 1 Cleveland scored 91 points total. It was the greatest scoring output in a half in NBA history.
Recognizing the tone this piece is taking is one of a whiny little bitch of a Warrior fan, allow me to counter with this. I love watching history being made. I love to watch a team come out of nowhere and obliterate the opponent because I love to witness greatness. What I don’t love is watching a game where one team is forbidden from playing and placed in foul trouble in the first quarter. I led with Cleveland’s insane three-point shooting night because nothing a ref or a whistle did made those record setting 24 shots from deep hit nothing but net.
But can someone please explain how referees screw up throwing a player with two technicals out of a game but a fan/guest of Lebron James got escorted out of the building from his courtside seats? There were enough whistle swallowing and dirty play that 80-90’s basketball purists would swell with pride. Much hell was raised by Greg Popovich about the injury Kwahi Leonard reaggravated after a “dirty closeout” from Zaza Pachulia. Yet time after time members of the Cavaliers, J.R. Smith, in particular, are guilty of the very same offense and nobody seems to be batting an eye.
Contact with the shooter was made on three-point shots and went uncalled. Leading up to the most egregious late whistle of them all. Kevin Durant drove to the hoop went up to dunk the ball and was mauled by Kevin Love. With the official standing at the baseline looking directly at them. A solid beat and a half passed before the blare of the whistle. The entire arena looked in disbelief at the official expecting a whistle to be blown. Durant landed and the sound camera could hear him yelling at the official “he hit me in the face.”
The situation appeared to be headed towards Malice at the Palace levels as both Kevin Durant and LeBron James stood nose to nose jawing at each other and had to be separated. A beautiful moment for television. King James facing elimination brings his Cavaliers roaring back to send both the Warriors and the series back to Oakland. 3-1 was the same score of the series heading back to Oracle Arena last year when the Cavs began their epic comeback. All the onus is now squarely on the Warriors. While others will loudly call for Cavs in 7 remember this. It took Cleveland scoring 137 points at home to beat the Warriors by 21.