Before Game 3, any and all persons with even a tinge of Warriors blue were lustily booed, with taunts cascading down from every angle on East 4th Street. Each boo fed off each other, growing in volume the farther the person walked through Downtown Cleveland.
But before Game 4 was different — Warriors gear on the street wasn’t treated with hostility. In fact, it was barely even acknowledged. It was as if Warriors jerseys were right at home in Cleveland. And that’s exactly how Golden State played in Game 4: right at home, earning a sweep of the Cavaliers with a resounding 108-85 demolition Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The competition for Finals MVP was a tighter race than the game ever was. Kevin Durant finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while Stephen Curry went off for 37 points on 12-of-27 shooting and seven 3’s.
In the end, it was Durant who claimed the award for a second-consecutive season. He did so averaging 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists, putting an exclamation mark on his performance with a 20-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double — the first of his playoff career.
Steve Kerr said he doesn’t think Curry cares about the MVP if it comes with a championship:
“I know that’s a storyline and I’m sure it would have been nice for Steph to win the MVP. But honestly I don’t think he’s that disappointed at this point. One of the great things about having the talent around him is that he gets to win championships. Two years ago we lost, and that was devastating. Steph went out and recruited KD with this in mind, winning titles. I was there in the Hamptons when we had that discussion, I don’t remember anyone asking, ‘who’s going to win MVP in the Finals’ it was all about let’s win championships together.”
You could tell the rough Game 3 bothered Curry, from the way he exited the court to his body language in the press conference. But it was truly evident in how he started Game 4. After missing his first nine 3’s two days earlier, Curry hit his first on an off-balance, one-handed attempt to draw a foul that swished through the net — with no whistle ringing.
That opened up multiple drives to the hoop, and even a pull-up, transition 3. He would go for 12 first-quarter points on 4-of-6 shooting, all of which felt like a direct response to his previous game’s struggles.
While it looked like the Warriors were trying to force-feed Curry, Durant was putting up a solid all-around game. He also played some of the best defense on LeBron James. James finished with just 23 points and had just one made field goal after halftime. Andre Iguodala also took his turn on James and put on another defensive clinic.
Kerr said there’s only so much you can do against James but the teams versatility is the key to their success:
“You have to do the best job you can, try to stay in front of him, try not to foul him. We’re blessed with a very versatile defensive roster. I thought one of the keys to the series was Andre returning. It gave the rest of the guys some relief, Draymond [Green], KD, Klay [Thompson]. So we were able to put Andre on LeBron and that gave everyone some rest.”
All that led to as dominating a win as the Warriors put together all year. It was so dominating that Kerr didn’t even break out the Green-at–center lineup. JaVale McGee started for the second straight game and may have actually been the most impactful Warrior on the court in the first half. He was a team-high plus-17 at the half and was a momentum booster for Golden State.
Green went for nine points and nine assists, and was instrumental in Curry’s big night as every time the Cavs would sag off of him, he’d immediately screen or hand off for him creating open looks.
About the only Warrior that met any type of resistance was Thompson. He would tally just 10 points, all coming in the third quarter. Usually single-minded on scoring Thompson actually pulled down six rebounds, which is the most he’s boarded in a game since April 5.
While his game didn’t necessarily stand out, Green was quick to point out something that did:
“Oh snap. Klay just googled himself and it says three-time champion already. That’s dope.”
The Warriors led after every quarter with Cleveland’s biggest lead, just one point, coming in the second quarter. Then that patented Warriors third quarter happened and yada-yada-yada the game was done.
Some might deem it boring, but for Curry, it never is:
“It feels so fresh. When you get on the podium and realize all your hard work you put into it and all that you’ve been to led to that moment, it never gets dull, it never gets boring…it’s why I got a big smile on my face at the moment, and I’m going to try and hold on to it as long as I can.”
The Cavs scored just 13 points in the third quarter on just 3-of-16 shooting and as low as their shooting percentage was, their spirit was even lower. You could see it in their body language that they’d had enough. They were done. No Mas.
Garbage time started with over five minutes to go in the third quarter — of an NBA Finals clinching game. It was inescapable, which is what this Finals felt like in general, two teams unavoidably meeting once again.
But like this game and series, this title for the Warriors — was inevitable.
Popping champagne and planning the parade.