CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Many who arrived at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for Game Four of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals on Friday night expected to see history.
With the Golden State Warriors holding a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series - and carrying a pristine 15-0 record in these play-offs - it was hard to find anyone who expected the Cleveland Cavaliers to find a way to send this series back to the Bay Area for Game Five.
But talk from the Warriors about popping champagne corks and celebrating an NBA title on Cleveland's home court for the second time in three seasons inspired Kyrie Irving to do something to prevent it.
The Cavs guard scored 40 points and LeBron James added 31 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds to power the Cavaliers in a physical effort over Golden State 137-116, averting what would have been a historic win and NBA Finals sweep for the Warriors.
"You hear some chatter going on throughout the Warriors' locker room in terms of them trying to end it here, and it was another do-or-die game for us, and we had to leave it all out there," Irving said.
"It's part of the game, I understand that. But we knew what we were faced with. Then you add some chatter in there, and that adds some extra motivation."
The Cavaliers, who last year made an unprecedented rally from a 3-1 Finals deficit to beat the Warriors, were physical right from the opening tip in what was easily the most emotionally-charged game of the series.
CAVALIERS' NBA FINALS RECORDS MADE IN GAME 4
MOST POINTS IN A QUARTER
MOST POINTS IN A HALF
MOST THREES IN A HALF
MOST THREES IN A GAME
MOST TRIPLE- DOUBLES (LEBRON JAMES)
"You get down 3-0 and you're fighting and you're trying to get a win, you do whatever it takes," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said.
"I thought we really brought a physicality to the game. We had a purpose and we cut down some of our mistakes we have been making those first three games and were able to play well."
After being outplayed in the opening two games and then squandering a lead in the final minutes of the third game, the Cavaliers knew they needed to change their approach while their backs were up against the wall.
The game plan worked like a charm as the Warriors were a frustrated bunch for most of the night, with players and coach Steve Kerr contesting calls from the officials, who at times seemed to lose control of the game.
Golden State guard Stephen Curry also had his worst game of the Finals, scoring a mere 14 points on four-of-13 shooting.
"We knew we had to make it physical. We knew that's part of who we are," said Kevin Love, who had 23 points for the Cavaliers.
You hear some chatter going on throughout the Warriors' locker room in terms of them trying to end it here... and we had to leave it all out there.
KYRIE IRVING, Cleveland Cavaliers guard, said the champions were fuelled by talk of the Warriors winning the title on the reigning champions' home court.
"Tonight we took it to them first, and that was very telling for the rest of the game."
Golden State still have a two-game buffer and can claim the trophy at home on Monday (Tuesday, Singapore time).
But the loss snapped the Warriors' chance of creating history with the league's first unbeaten play-off run.
"Our defence was not sharp. They made tough shots, they got it rolling. I thought they played a tremendous game," said Kerr.
"I think the biggest thing, though, was they brought a level of physicality that we did not match. We have to do a better job of that."
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Game 5, Golden State v Cleveland Singtel TV Ch110, Tuesday, 9am