After the Cavaliers won Game 3 of the NBA Finals to take a 2-1 series lead, Cleveland fans celebrated like they had already won the championship.
Funny, but shouldn’t they know better than that?
Must-win situation or not, the Warriors came out in Game 4 and played like a team that knew their backs were up against the wall. And if they weren’t fully aware of that fact when the game tipped-off, the Cavs coming out of the gate to grab a quick 7-0 lead certainly provided a much-needed wake-up call for them.
From that point forward, Golden State ended up out-scoring Cleveland 103-75 to knot things up at 2-2 and re-establish home court advantage in the Warriors favor. And these are the five biggest reasons why they did:
1) Steve Kerr made a bold line-up change and benched the invisible Andrew Bogut for Andre Iguodala, switching size for speed and pace, which was something the Warriors lacked with LeBron James controlling the flow of the opening three contests. Cleveland’s ability to slow things down limited the up-tempo style that Golden State had thrived on all season long, and the change by Kerr reignited the stalled engine. As a result of Iguodala’s insertion into the starting lineup, he out-played James at both ends of the floor, and never allowed LeBron to set the pace.=
2) After being lackadaisical and reckless with the basketball in the opening three games, Golden State took much better care of the rock in Game 4, turning it over only seven times for the game, and just twice in the first half. With the Cavaliers lessening their possessions because of the overall slower pace, the Warriors were further putting themselves behind the 8-ball with their carelessness in handling the ball in Games 1-3. But Golden State realized the error of their ways and played a much smarter brand of basketball on Thursday night, which turned out to be an imperative factor in winning.=
3) The Warriors shot the ball better than they had previously in the series. Thanks to his explosive 4th quarter back in Game 3, a more confident Steph Curry was back to being the Steph Curry who won the NBA MVP award this season, as opposed to the guy who’s been masquerading in his No. 30 jersey in this series. The aforementioned Iguodala was sharp from the field, too, and both Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes regained enough of their form to also provide solid contributions. On the flip side of the coin, while the Warriors shot 47% from the field and 40% from three-point range, the Cavs finally paid for a continuation of their errant shooting in going 33% from the floor overall, and a dreadful 15% from downtown.=
4) The Golden State bench outscored their Cleveland counterparts 19-7, with David Lee and Shaun Livingston serving as invaluable pieces at both ends of the court. Having been a DNP Coach’s Decision for the opening two games of these Finals, the former All-Star Lee may end up being the guy who turned things around for Kerr going back to the second half of Game 3. As for Livingston, his capability as a bigger guard to handle the ball allowed Curry to freelance without it and free him up for open looks. In a statistical comparison that help spell out what happened, the Warriors were a +25 when Livingston was on the court in Game 4, while Cleveland cohort J.R. Smith (2-for-12 shooting and 0-for-8 from beyond the three-point arc) was an abysmal -27.
5) The fourth quarter proved to be Golden State territory. With banged up Cleveland choosing to play only seven guys, they were pooped in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Warriors led by six starting the fourth period, and proceeded to out-score the Cavs 27-12. LeBron was basically a non-entity down the stretch, as it appears all the minutes played and shots taken truly are starting to affect him. And, his head colliding with a TV camera in the first half no doubt took its toll on him, as well.