LeBron James, Kyrie Irving Lead Cavaliers to Game 4 Win, Avoid Finals Sweep

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 09:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 9, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Don't look now, but the Cleveland Cavaliers trail the Golden State Warriors 3-1 in the NBA Finals.

Cleveland avoided a sweep and extended its season with a 137-116 victory over Golden State in Friday's Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron James led the way with a triple-double of 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while Kyrie Irving added 40 points and seven boards.

The series now shifts back to Oracle Arena for Game 5 on Monday as the Cavaliers will attempt to become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit one year after overcoming a 3-1 deficit on the same stage against the same opponent.


Cavaliers Set Records With Offensive Explosion

Cleveland could have hung its head after losing Game 3 despite a late lead, but it instead came out with an edge.

All the home team did was set an NBA Finals record for points in a quarter with 49 in the first, per NBA.com/Stats, and continue the offensive onslaught with 86 points in the first half. Ray Ratto of CSN Bay Area noted the 1985 Boston Celtics set the previous record for first-half points in a Finals game with 79 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Cleveland's 26 free-throw attempts in the first half helped, but this was a completely different team than the one from Wednesday. Kevin Love went 1-of-9 from the field in Game 3 and responded with 23 points, Tristan Thompson turned zero points and three rebounds last time into 10 rebounds and five assists, and JR Smith tallied 15 points on five triples.

The role players provided a boost, but the James and Irving duo spearheaded the effort.

James finished with a plus-minus of plus-32, per ESPN.com, and became the all-time leader in NBA Finals triple-doubles with nine, passing Magic Johnson, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. He also mixed in some style with an alley-oop to himself:

His effort was good enough to surpass Michael Jordan for the third-most points in NBA Finals history:

Not to be outdone, Irving displayed his normal offensive brilliance by slicing through defenders, hitting off-balance threes and pouring in 28 points in the first half. The Cavaliers drilled 13 three-pointers in the opening two quarters, which opened penetration lanes for Irving and James to exploit.

It was a vicious cycle for Golden State's defense because collapsing on the two stars opened the other shooters, and Cleveland responded with an NBA Finals record 24 threes, per the team.

Not even the all-time great Warriors could match the Cavaliers' all-time great performance.


Warriors Defense Falls Short in Chippy Game

The No. 2 team in defensive efficiency during the regular season, per NBA.com, was nowhere to be found Friday, as Cleveland shot 52.9 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from deep. Even 116 points from the Warriors weren't enough to counter the defensive lapses and incredible showing from the Cavaliers.

Golden State can at least take solace knowing Kevin Durant continued his offensive dominance in these Finals with 35 points. He has scored more than 30 in every game of the series, but Stephen Curry was just 2-of-9 from downtown with 14 points. Klay Thompson's 13 points were far from the 30 he scored in Game 3.

Draymond Green added 16 points and 14 boards but couldn't inspire the defense like he so often does.

He was also part of a confusing sequence when it appeared he was given a second technical and ejection. However, the officiating crew said it actually gave head coach Steve Kerr the first-half technical and kept Green on the floor despite apparent discrepancies, per Sam Amick of USA Today:

Green's weren't the only emotions, as Zaza Pachulia threw a punch at Iman Shumpert's groin, James and Durant exchanged words and drew double technicals, and a fan was ejected.

Chris Mannix of the Vertical described the fan situation:

The testiness will likely carry over with a championship on the line for Monday's Game 5, especially now that Cleveland is back in contention.