NBA Finals: Golden State beat Cleveland 108-97; now just one shy of second straight title

LeBron James #23 of the Cavaliers handles the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
LeBron James #23 of the Cavaliers handles the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals.PHOTO: AFP
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (left) and forward Andre Iguodala (right) defend against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (centre).
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (left) and forward Andre Iguodala (right) defend against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (centre).PHOTO: EPA
A giant portrait of Cleveland Cavailers superstar LeBron James banner covers  the exterior of the Sherwin-Williams Co. Global Headquarters across from Quicken Loans Arena.
A giant portrait of Cleveland Cavailers superstar LeBron James banner covers the exterior of the Sherwin-Williams Co. Global Headquarters across from Quicken Loans Arena.PHOTO: AFP

CLEVELAND - In a match-up that remained tight until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-97 to take a daunting 3-1 lead in the best of seven series.

The win puts the Warriors within one game - and the next one is on their home court in Oakland - of winning their second straight National Basketball Championship. Last year, they defeated Cleveland in six games to win the title.

In Game 4, Stephen Curry finally showed for the first time in the series, displaying the deadly shot-making that made him the first-ever unanious choice for Most Valuable Player. He dropped in 38 points, while his Splash Brother Klay Thompson - also fairly silent in the series until today - added 25.

Together, they took the wind out of a valiant effort by the Cavaliers with about 5 minutes left to play, and the wind out of the hometown crowd that had been hoping the basketball team could break a 52 year drought since a Cleveland sports team last won a national championship.

The Cavaliers would have to win three straight - including two on the Warriors home court . In short, Cleveland is looking for what would amount to a snow storm to hit Singapore.

The Cavs were led by Kyrie Irving with 34 points, while LeBron James came up just shy of a triple double with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists.

Kevin Love, out with a concussion in Game 3, did not start but returned from the bench to drop in 11 points and pull down 5 rebounds.

The final score was far from indicative of a hard-fought game that remained close until the waning minutes. Until then, it looked nothing like the blow-outs of the first three games.

The Cavs had carved out a gritty 56-50 lead as the first half came to an end.

The Golden State Warriors jumped out to a 29-28 lead after the first quarter but the hometown team rebounded in the second quarter with help from Love.

Keeping the Warriors close was the return of their vaunted 3-point shooting that saw them making 47 per cent of their shots from "downtown" in the game to go with making 41 per cent field goals.

By contrast, the Cavaliers could only find the basket with 24 per cent of their shots from the arc, but shot 47 per cent from inside it.

As the half neared its end with a display of shooting and hard-fought defence in the paint, officials call 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 the officials.

That gave the Cavs an extra point in the first half, as the second half began.

A sell-out crowd of 20,562 had packed Quicken Loans arena - better known as the Q - for Game 4 of the Finals, hoping their hometown Cavaliers could build on their Game 3 victory but went home drained and deflated once again.

At moments when the Warriors went to the foul line in the first half, boos from the sell-out crowd reached a deafening pitch, as Cleveland fans were egged on by Jumbotron images of other local sports villains - mainly pictures of American football foes, the Pittsburg hSteelers

Moments before the game started, fans unfurled a massive banner with their motto for the home stand - Defend the Land - in the wine and gold colours of the Cavaliers.

Then, the US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter waved from courtside as fans joined Dancing With the Stars deaf star Nyle DiMarco to sing the National Anthem as he performed it in sign language.