The heat is on as teams recall same stage in 2016 Finals

Cleveland's LeBron James and Golden State's Kevin Durant squaring up after a foul in Game Four as tension mounted in the NBA Finals.
Cleveland's LeBron James and Golden State's Kevin Durant squaring up after a foul in Game Four as tension mounted in the NBA Finals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

OAKLAND (California) • Emotions are running high in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals, with superstars LeBron James and Kevin Durant exchanging heated words while Golden State and Cleveland are locked in a familiar tension-packed position.

The Warriors lead the defending champions 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and can capture their second crown in three years by winning tomorrow morning (Singapore time) before a home crowd.

The Cavaliers staved off elimination by ripping apart Golden State 137-116 in Game Four. James and Durant received technical fouls in the third quarter after yelling at each other, two of seven technicals issued in the game, five in a raucous third quarter.

"Both teams were wanting to put themselves in the record books and in basketball history," said James after the Cavs sank a record 24 three-pointers and scored the most points in any half (86) or quarter (49) in Finals history. "So try to do whatever it takes to win."

Durant was concerned that abundant foul calls were draining the passion from the moment.

"We weren't coming to blows. We were just talking. That's a part of basketball," he said. "It's like the aura of the game created trash talk. I'm sure it's going to continue. There's nothing malicious."

The parallels between Friday's Game Four - with the Warriors losing their composure and picking up several technicals as a team, not to mention Green's bizarre moment where he briefly expected to be ejected - and the one these teams played a year ago were unmistakable. In that game, he wound up getting himself suspended for Game Five after taking a swipe at James' groin.

There is one very notable difference this time, however: Green will be on the Oracle Arena court for Game Five, instead of watching.

"Yeah, thank God I get to play on Monday," he said.

Both sides know the history, the Warriors squandering a 3-1 series lead last year as the Cavaliers made the greatest comeback in Finals history. Teams down 0-3 in a best-of-seven series are 0-126 all-time in NBA history, but the Cavs believe they can overcome the odds once again.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

NBA FINALS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'The heat is on as teams recall same stage in 2016 Finals'. Print Edition | Subscribe