Curry fires, Cavs slump

Golden State's Stephen Curry going up for a basket, as Cleveland's Kyrie Irving desperately tries to block him. For the first time in the NBA Finals series, the Warriors point guard had a solid game, with 38 points in the 108-97 win as Klay Thompson
Golden State's Stephen Curry going up for a basket, as Cleveland's Kyrie Irving desperately tries to block him. For the first time in the NBA Finals series, the Warriors point guard had a solid game, with 38 points in the 108-97 win as Klay Thompson weighed in with 25 points.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cleveland now need 2 wins in Oakland to avoid yet another disappointing season

Cleveland sports fans know that sinking feeling, when another championship begins to slip away again.

Not since 1964 had the city celebrated winning a major North American sports title and, after the Cleveland Cavaliers' 97-108 NBA Finals Game 4 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday, the fans are bracing themselves for another year of disappointment when Game 5 comes around tomorrow.

Of the 32 teams who have gone down 1-3 in the National Basketball Association Finals, none have rebounded to win the best-of-seven series, even against teams far less mighty than the Warriors have been in the 2015-16 season.

Not only do the Cavaliers face the daunting task of winning three straight against a team they have beaten only once all year, but they must also win two of them on the Warriors' home court.

Still, Cavs superstar LeBron James refused to wave a white flag of surrender.

"My mindset is (to) get one," he said. "You know, we've got to go out there and play obviously better than we played tonight. Better than even we played in Game 3. But we've got to get one."

That third game saw Cleveland deliver a sound 120-90 spanking to the defending champions, but Golden State rebounded for their 88th victory of the season - the most combined wins in the regular season and post-season in history.

In Game 4, Stephen Curry finally showed up for the first time in the Finals, displaying the deadly shotmaking that made him the first-ever unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player.

He dropped in 38 points, while his sidekick Klay Thompson - also fairly silent in the series until Game 4 - added 25.

As his team-mate Draymond Green said: "He's a competitor. He's been under a heavy microscope, and rightfully so.

"Two-time MVP, you're expected to have a great game in the Finals. He struggled the first three; tonight he was our guy."

Curry's performance was not lost on James, who said: "We made some mistakes and he made us pay for them. He made us pay every time we made a mistake defensively, and he shot the ball extremely well from the three-point line.

"We tried to keep a body on him when he went to the paint, where he struggled a little bit, but when he went to the three-point line, he made us pay."

Together, Curry and Thompson drowned out a valiant effort by the Cavaliers with about five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, knocking the wind out of a noisy crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena that had been hoping the basketball team could break their 52-year sports drought.

Unlike the first three games of the Finals which ended in routs, the Cavaliers and the Warriors kept things close this time, swopping leads throughout the game.

The biggest difference was three-point shooting, as the Warriors relied on their deadliest weapon to eventually down the Cavs. They made a Finals-record 17 three-pointers on 47 per cent long-range shooting, while the Cavs managed only six three-pointers on 24 per cent shooting.

As the tense first half neared its end, officials called a technical foul on Golden State's coach Steve Kerr, for what was obvious from reading his lips were some four-letter words directed at them.

Despite the consensus that the Cavaliers are done, and that the Warriors will probably wrap up the series in Game 5 at home, Curry noted that buying into that kind of hype was not for him.

"We always talk about just because we're going home doesn't mean you can relax or take things for granted," he said.

"You work all regular season to have home-court advantage, and this is a great opportunity for us, and we need to play with a sense of urgency and a sense of aggression like we did tonight."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Curry fires, Cavs slump'. Print Edition | Subscribe