It looked like the big story of game four of the NBA Finals would be that the Cavaliers took 20 free throws in the first quarter. The Cavs scored a staggering 49 points in the first quarter (an NBA Finals record), despite the fact that they missed eight free throws in the quarter. They could have sniffed 60.
But the Warriors are never far behind. Even if the Warriors are down by 20, they're not far behind. Golden State refused to go away throughout the entire game, pulling to within a dozen on countless occasions. The problem with this game, though, was stoppages.
There was a technical foul in the first quarter which was misattributed - it was clearly on Draymond Green, the official stat sheet said it was on Draymond Green, and the in-arena announcement was that it was on Draymond Green. Dahntay Jones got a tech from the bench. There was a flagrant foul review on Kevin Love. There were multiple scrums and arguments. There were two double-technicals. There was another technical on Draymond Green which prompted the officiating crew to claim that the first one was actually on Steve Kerr, and there was Zaza Pachulia punching Iman Shumpert in the crotch, and not getting a flagrant for it.
In the midst of all this, there was basketball. High-scoring, fast-moving, insanely high-level basketball.
The Cavaliers led 86-68 at halftime. Read that sentence again. That wasn't anywhere near the craziest thing that happened in this game. LeBron James threw an alley-oop off the backboard TO HIMSELF. Kyrie Irving clowned the entire Warriors defense on multiple occasions. He had 28 at halftime. LeBron James had 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists at halftime. Kevin Love had 17. Deron Williams made multiple shots in the same game.
Did I mention that LeBron James threw an alley-oop off the backboard to himself? Here's what that looks like.
This guy is surreal. Through four games, LeBron is still averaging a triple-double and passed Magic Johnson for most all-time Finals triple-doubles.
The biggest difference between game four and the rest of the series was simply that the Cavaliers made their threes. Cleveland, a fantastic three-point shooting team, shot terribly in the first three games. After cooling off a little down the stretch, the Cavs were 23-43 from deep when the benches cleared at the 2:15 mark. It made all the difference the Cavs needed, although it would have been nice if they'd traded two of them for Wednesday.
The second biggest difference was the return of Tristan Thompson. He ended with five points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. He grabbed a few boards on offense and found the right guy. It was a huge difference.
It remains to be seen whether or not the league will review any of the incidents from Friday night's game, although they probably should. Pachulia very clearly took a swing at Shumpert. Draymond took a monstrous whack at Tristan Thompson's head/neck and it wasn't even reviewed. Just a wild game.
Final stats: Kyrie Irving had 40, LeBron had 31/10/11, JR Smith had 15, and Tristan Thompson had 10 rebounds in an impressive bounce-back. LeBron and Kyrie combined for just five turnovers.