They finished just short of history.
One season after breaking the NBA record for most wins in a season with 73, the Warriors were on the verge of becoming the first team to finish the postseason undefeated following a 15-0 start. Golden State returns home on Monday, but not for a parade across the Bay Area. The Warriors have three shots to capture their second championship in three seasons, as Steve Kerr’s squad is back at Oracle Arena for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Cavaliers.
Cleveland blitzed Golden State on Friday with a first quarter barrage for the ages by posting an NBA Finals-record 49 points in the first 12 minutes. The Cavaliers didn’t let up from there as they kept their season alive with a 137-116 blowout of the Warriors to easily cash as five-point home underdogs.
Kyrie Irving lit up the Warriors in consecutive games at Quicken Loans Arena as the Cavaliers’ guard followed up a 38-point effort in Game 3 by dropping 40 points on Golden State in Game 4. Irving failed to knock down a shot from long range in seven attempts in Game 3, but connected on seven treys in Game 4, while Cleveland torched Golden State for 24 three-pointers.
LeBron James did his usual thing for Cleveland by scoring 31 points, pulling down 11 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists, while jawing with Golden State counterpart Kevin Durant in a hotly-contested matchup. Durant held up his end of the bargain in Game 4 by posting 35 points, although he shot 9-of-22 from the floor. Through four games in the Finals, Durant is averaging 34.2 points per game, while putting up at least 29 points in eight of his previous 10 postseason contests.
No other Warrior besides Durant scored more than 16 points, as KD’s running mate, Stephen Curry registered only 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Curry’s lowest output in last year’s Finals was 11 points in the series opener, as the two-time MVP was held without field goal in the opening quarter in Game 4. Golden State shot poorly from downtown by converting 11-of-39 three-point attempts, including a combined 4-of-18 from Curry and Durant.
Cleveland improved to 4-0 in its last four games facing elimination dating back to last year’s epic Finals comeback against Golden State. The catalyst to the 2016 comeback was the Game 5 suspension of Golden State’s do-it-all man Draymond Green, following his punch to James’ nether region. Green was on his way to getting tossed from Game 4, but confusion on an earlier technical kept the former Michigan State star in the game as the Warriors will have his services for Game 5.
In the last two NBA Finals, the eventual champion won the title on the road, as Golden State can buck that trend by winning on Monday in Oakland. The Warriors own a 4-4 ATS record at Oracle Arena in the playoffs, with two of those covers coming in the first two games against the Cavaliers.
Bettors playing the ‘over’ (227 ½) in Game 4 were lighting up cigars and drinking champagne at the end of the first quarter on Friday as both clubs couldn’t miss. It was never in doubt and it’s been a common theme in the playoffs. Including that result, the ‘over’ is now 3-1 in this NBA Finals and the high side has produced an eye-opening 47-30-1 (61%) in this year’s postseason and that includes a 24-10 (71%) record after the first round.
Oddsmakers sent out a total of 231 for Monday’s matchup and a few betting shops have already nudged the total up to 232.
VegasInsider.com NBA analyst Chris David offered up his thoughts on Friday’s action and what to look for in Game 5.
“A lot of old school pundits aren’t enjoying the new-look NBA and often point to the lack of defense and physical play. The point is well taken but the rules have changed and so has the talent on the floor. The amount of elite shooters in today’s game is far superior to the past and that was evident on Friday when Cleveland shot 53 percent (24-of-45) from distance and broke a handful of NBA records by doing so. Before the series started, I predicted Golden State to sweep but I also noted that the Cavaliers could sweep if they continued to light it up from the outside,” said David.
“The Cavaliers are sloppy defensively and allowing 36 trips to the free throw line would’ve sent you home on any other night if it wasn’t for your hot shooting. Other surprising numbers that stood out from Friday were the lack of field goal attempts taken by both Curry (13) and Klay Thompson (11), which were well below their averages. Knowing that Cleveland’s defense is limited and allowing 119.8 PPG in this series, leaning to Golden State’s team total (120) in Game 5 appears to a solid lean.”
Including Friday’s result, Golden State has watched the ‘over’ go 12-4 (75%) in the playoffs while Cleveland is 12-5 (71%) to the high side.
The first quarter has gone ‘over’ in every game of this series despite seeing numbers get as high as 61 for the opening 12 minutes. The ‘over’ has gone 3-1 in the first-half but the ‘under’ is 3-1 in the second-half.