Mr. Fourth Quarter Caps Christmas Day Comeback Classic
After Trailing by 14, Kyrie's Jumper Seals Thrilling Win in Finals Rematch
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Wrap-Up -- The Cavaliers’ thrilling last-minute victory won’t sting Steve Kerr’s squad as badly as Cleveland’s comeback in the NBA Finals. But it’s definitely going to be a long plane ride back to Oakland for the Warriors on Christmas night.
A little more than six months after completing the greatest comeback in Finals history – erasing Golden State’s 3-1 series lead to take the 2016 NBA Championship – the Cavaliers wiped out the Warriors’ two-touchdown fourth quarter lead, capping the rally with Kyrie Irving’s turnaround over Klay Thompson with 3.4 to play, giving Cleveland the heart-pounding 109-108 win.
The eagerly-anticipated inter-Conference matchup – which might be the best current rivalry in pro sports – exceeded all expectations in a contest that had a playoff-like intensity from the opening tip.
The Warriors took a two-point edge at the end of the first period and kept the Cavaliers at bay through the next two periods. But Golden State extended its edge to 14 points on Kevin Durant’s pull-up jumper with 9:35 to play. At that point, the Wine and Gold began whittling away the lead – tying the score on Kyrie’s layup with 2:18 to play and taking the 105-103 lead on LeBron James’ monster smash one possession later.
Draymond Green scored on a dunk to tie the affair at 105-apiece and Steph Curry gave Golden State a three-point lead with just his second triple of the afternoon. But with less than a minute to play, Kyrie Irving scored on a layup after registering his seventh steal of the game to cut the Warriors lead to one – 108-107 – with 37.5 to play.
The Warriors had a chance to take the lead back, but a shot-clock violation gave the ball back to Cleveland. Without an available timeout, the Cavaliers put the ball in Irving’s hands – and the three-time All-Star put Klay Thompson into the spin cycle before knocking down the 13-foot fadeaway.
On Golden State’s final possession, Kevin Durant – who’d been hounded by Richard Jefferson through the fourth quarter – stumbled and couldn’t get a quality shot off, chucking a 34-foot desperation heave as the closing buzzer sounded.
Kyrie – who drilled the iconic trey with under a minute to play in Game 7 of last June’s Finals – notched 14 of his 25 points in the final period, going 6-of-11 from the floor in the fourth, 11-for-27 overall. The former No. 1 overall pick added a game-high 10 assists and six boards to tally his third straight double-double, a career-best.
Irving also snagged a game-high seven steals – one game after registering six against Brooklyn – making him the first Cavalier since Footsie Walker in 1978 to notch at least six steals in consecutive outings.
Playing in his 11th Christmas Day game, LeBron led the Wine and Gold with 31 points and 13 boards – going 12-for-22 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from three-point range. The four-time MVP has been shooting the long-ball as well as any time during his career and drilled three straight to keep Cleveland competitive in the third.
The Big Three all score 20+ as the Wine and Gold improve to 23-6.
Kevin Love finished with 20 points and six boards in the victory – going 5-for-13 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the stripe, scoring his 10,000th career point in the process.
The only other Cavalier in double-figures was Channing Frye – who struggled mightily against Golden State in last year’s Finals but came off the bench to score 10 points, going 4-for-7 from the field, 2-of-5 from long-range.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 36 points for Golden State, but Richard Jefferson – who got a fourth-quarter technical foul for winking at the former MVP – frustrated him throughout the final period, missing his final five shots and going just 2-for-9 in the period.
The Cavaliers also managed to score 109 points while shooting just 39 percent from the floor. But Cleveland took 18 more shot attempts than the Warriors and canned 12 triples to Golden State’s nine.
Turning Point -- LeBron James led the Cavs in scoring and helped put the finishing touches on the Christmas Day thriller, but it was an early fourth quarter stretch with him on the bench in which the Wine and Gold began their comeback.
After falling behind by 14, Jefferson and Love scored on scored to keep Cleveland within striking distance. Kyrie hit a three-pointer with 7:34 to play to get the lead back under double-digits and, seconds later, LeBron checked back in.
From that point, the Wine and Gold methodically chipped away through the rest of the quarter until Irving’s late-game heroics sealed the deal and sent the crowd home happy.
By the Numbers – 301 … points that LeBron James has scored in Christmas Day games – becoming just the third player in league history (joining Kobe Bryant  and Oscar Robertson ) as the only players to have topped the 300-point mark.
Quotable – Kyrie Irving, on the intensity of the Christmas Day matchup …
”That’s a great team down there and they have guys that have the ability to make some big shots, which they did down the stretch. But for us it was just about executing offensively, getting to our spots, crashing the boards when we had opportunities and just staying resilient. There were a few hustle plays where you see both teams diving on the floor. That’s what you want in a high intensity game..”
Up Next -- After the Christmas Day nail-biter, the Cavaliers get right back on the road, traveling to Detroit for a Central Division matchup with the Pistons on Monday night in Motown. On Thursday night, the Wine and Gold welcome the Celtics to The Q before wrapping up the year 2016 on Saturday night in Charlotte, taking on Kemba Walker and the Hornets on New Year’s Eve.
Sounds of the Game
LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant #NBAXmas Duel
Here is LeBron James and Kevin Durant squaring off on Christmas day in Cleveland
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors - December 25, 2016
Here is LeBron James and Kevin Durant squaring off on Christmas day in Cleveland
Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers face off against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors in Phantom Cam Action
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love spoke with the media following Sunday's 109-108 victory against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving spoke with the media following Sunday's 109-108 victory against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James spoke with the media following Sunday's 109-108 victory against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue spoke with the media following Sunday's 109-108 victory against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cleveland Cavaliers erase a 14-point fourth quarter deficit lead by LeBron James' 31 points as they beat the Warriors, 109-108.
Mr. Fourth Quarter, Kyrie Irving, hits the clutch fadeaway jumper in the final seconds to give the Cavaliers the win.
Kyrie Irving drops it off to LeBron James who skies for the monster slam, plus the foul.
Richard Jefferson climbs the ladder and throws down the posterizing slam on Klay Thompson.
Iman Shumpert hustles for the loose ball and alertly dishes to a wide open Kevin Love for the easy slam.
Richard Jefferson drives down the lane and throws the hammer down on Kevin Durant.
Kyrie Irving knives past the Warriors defense and throws the no look pass to Tristan Thompson for the slam.
Experience Intel with this unique angle of Kyrie Irving throwing the behind-the-back pass to Channing Frye for the triple.
LeBron James hustles back on defense and comes up with the big rejection on Zaza Pachulia.
The Wine and Gold go on a 10-0 run towards the end of the second quarter to even the score at 50.
Tristan Thompson hustles for the loose ball and powers up the jam.
LeBron James finds a wide open Channing Frye in the paint for the easy two-hand dunk.
Kyrie Irving gets into the lane and dishes to Channing Frye who throws it down.
Kyrie Irving goes behind-the-back to Channing Frye who cans the triple.
LeBron James splits the defense with the behind-the-back dribble and glides in for the bucket.
Kevin Love alertly takes the ball after the dunk by Kevin Durant and whips it down the other end to LeBron James for the flush.
Members of the Wine and Gold welcome the best fans in the NBA to the game for their matchup against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, December 25th.
‘Tis the season to spread good cheer, and the Cavs did just that for a group of Cleveland-area children on Sunday, December 25.
Members of the Wine and Gold serenade the best fans in the NBA with their own rendition of the holiday classic.
Members of the Wine and Gold serenade the best fans in the NBA with their own version of a holiday classic.
The Golden State Warriors take on the Cavaliers in Cleveland at 2:30pm EST on ABC as part of your five-game Christmas day slate.
As we close in on Christmas Day, we look back on some of the greatest Christmas Day performances in NBA lore.
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving spoke with the media following Friday's 119-99 victory against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love with the media following Friday's 119-99 victory against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena.