Cavs in seven! Cavs in seven!
It was a rowdy taunt, a jeering jibe, a playful fantasy in the time just past the witching hour on Saturday morning.
One might have thought the roaring, jumping throng jammed inside Quicken Loans Arena was sticking around to give a proud team of defending champions a jubilant salute they deserved.
Was it the unofficial end to an historic year on top of the NBA? Or the start of something else bigger, better and even more audacious?
After 137-116 in Game 4, the ESPN stat geeks now give LeBron James and his band of merry followers a one percent chance of winning The Finals, which is about the same odds as pulling a carrot out of the dirt and getting it elected to high office.
Strange things have been known to happen in still the early days of the 21st century, not the least of which was the Cavaliers becoming the first team in history to climb out of that 3-1 hole in the championship round against the record-setting, poetry-inspiring, prohibitive favorite Warriors.
So, who says the same bolt of lightning couldn’t strike again on the shores of Lake Erie?
Only everyone who doesn’t think the Cavs could repeat the wild performance of setting records for most 3-point shots made in a Finals game (24), most points scored in the first quarter (49) and the first half (86).
RECAP: Coverage of Game 4
Only those who don’t believe Kyrie Irving could juke and jive and bomb away from long range for another 40, LeBron could extend his Larry-Bird-tying record streak of four consecutive triple-doubles to open a Finals.
Only those who didn’t see the vanishing Tristan Thompson make his first appearance like the monster rising out of Loch Ness with an electric jolt of a first quarter, J.R. Smith streaking in like a comet and Iman Shumpert become an inspiration by hustling, defender and giving up his, uh, game on the receiving end of another Golden State groin punch (Zaza Pachulia).
Only those who didn’t see the megastars James and Kevin Durant go jaw-to-jaw in an angry first half face-off that put the raw, fiery intensity of the game on display quite personally.
Only those who didn’t see James get himself caught in a defensive bind on a second half fast break, flip the ball off the backboard, then go get it to flush home a rip-roaring dunk that could heard way down the road in his native Akron.
“This is The Finals, man,” Irving said. “A minute here, four minutes here, a rebound here, maybe a tech or two here. It matters.”
It matters if for no other reason than the Cavaliers stepped in at the nick of time to rescue The Finals and the entire playoff run from being a coronation instead of a competition for Golden State. While a perfect 16-0 record might look nice hanging on a museum wall inside a gold frame, the essence of sports is more about persistence than perfection and so the Cavs kept pounding away on the impenetrable door until it finally caved in.
Of course, the Warriors’ catbird seat is still the preferred place to be, returning home to Oracle on Monday night. They will be coming off their first loss with their starting five intact since Feb. 2 and first loss of any kind since Apr. 10.
“We have haven't felt this feeling walking off the court with a loss in a while,” said Stephen Curry. “But we have done a good job of bouncing back and being resilient all year and obviously learning from all different experiences we have been through...We got to find our edge next game. There's no secret. Just this is how big the stage is right now. We would love to have celebrated and finished off the job. Didn’t happen, got another opportunity on Monday.”
After playing his usual role as fire-starter, Draymond Green lit the flames brighter by noting that Cleveland fans “don’t seem to be the sharpest around.” It’s the kind of pointed barb that will fall harmless as the confetti from the rafters if the Warriors take care of business and don’t have to return to face those fans at The Q for a Game 6.
But just in case no one has noticed, this will be the Warriors’ fifth straight opportunity in the last 12 months to close out The Finals and they’re still looking to get that done.
The Cavs nod their heads.
So, there’s a chance?
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