Friday, June 12, 2015
LeBron James was bloodied and later beaten.
When he pulled on his warmup jersey to signal the end of his night, there were still about three minutes remaining.
He had nothing going in the fourth quarter, anyway.
James was shut out in the period and slowed for the first time in the NBA Finals, as Golden State beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-82 on Thursday to even the series 2-2.
For the Warriors, there was no panic, no playing around. Just California cool. They simply did what they had to do, and now they’re going home in the same shape as when they left — tied in the NBA Finals.
Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala scored 22 points apiece and the Warriors, showing their depth and why they were the league’s best team all season.
Game 5 is Sunday night at Oakland’s rambunctious Oracle Arena, where the teams split two overtime games last week.
“We’ve seen it all year, every team we go up against, we use our strength in numbers,” said Iguodala, who made a surprise start. “Not only do we have a good first unit but we’ve got a second unit that is coming at you with the same type of speed, same type of high-IQ basketball. It’s hard to keep up with us.
“We’re going to try to keep it going.”
James finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, good numbers but nowhere near the impact he had been making on the series. In fact, he finished with less than half the 41 points he was averaging in what had been one of the best finals performances in history.
But he couldn’t keep it up while playing 41 minutes and looking tired. He shot 7 for 22 from the field and rested his hands on his hips multiple times in the fourth quarter, when he took only two shots.
He was trying to catch a quick rest to start the fourth quarter and the game got away from the Cavs while he did. They made the first two baskets while he sat to push the lead back to double digits after Cleveland had been within three points in the final minute of the third, and it turned into a blowout shortly after he returned.
James had been hurt earlier when he was fouled along the baseline by Andrew Bogut. He tumbled out of bounds and he crashed into a photographer’s camera, opening a cut in the back of his head. He remained down for a couple of minutes before getting up and holding a towel over the cut. He stayed in the game and made one of the free throws.
Timofey Mozgov led Cleveland with 28 points.
James wasn’t the only one who looked weary. Matthew Dellavedova, who needed treatment for dehydration after scoring a postseason career-high 20 in Game 3, had just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting. He looked like he could have used his usual pregame coffee that he gave up Thursday to remain hydrated.
The point guard went to the bench early in the second half to get his legs massaged and didn’t do much from there as Stephen Curry scored 22 points.
Right now, rest looks like what James needs most.
The Warriors were in a must-win situation as none of the 32 teams who have fallen behind 3-1 in the finals have come back to win an NBA title. Golden State doesn’t have to worry about that, and now it’s possible the Warriors will get to play two more games on their home court if the series goes the distance.
Game 6 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Building off a strong fourth quarter in Game 3 that gave them confidence, the Warriors showed a sense of urgency from the outset and took it to the Cavs. Iguodala, who played so well coming off the bench in the first three games, started and made coach Steve Kerr’s decision look brilliant.
Known for his defense, Iguodala made four 3-pointers, kept James in check and Curry, the league MVP, made four as well, including a deep dagger in the fourth.
With Cavs still hanging around, Curry hit a step-back 3 on the left side that stopped the Cavs cold and silenced a roaring crowd of 20,562.