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Wrap-Up -- Down 19 points at half at by 16 midway through the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers – on the second night of a back-to-back, at the end of a five-game trip and in their final road game of the season – could have easily raised the white flag.
But anyone who’s watched Larry Drew’s squad this season knows that wasn’t going to happen.
Instead, the Wine & Gold – mounting a furious 17-4 run that cut Golden State’s lead to just three – came roaring back. Three stalled possessions in the final two minutes was enough for the Warriors to escape with the 120-114 win – but the World Champs knew they were in a dogfight.
In the Cavaliers final game at Oracle Arena – the gym where they completed the greatest comeback in NBA history, winning the World Championship after trailing 3-1 in the 2016 Finals – it looked like the Warriors would win in a runaway.
Steph Curry scored 18 points in the first quarter and had 23 at the break as Golden State ran out to an early edge – taking a three-touchdown lead early in the third quarter.
Also playing the second night of a back-to-back and with the postseason approaching, Steve Kerr began mixing his reserves into the rotation with his squad comfortably ahead.
The Warriors continued to cruise well into the fourth quarter, but Collin Sexton, Larry Nance and David Nwaba had other ideas – propelling Cleveland’s comeback, with the trio going 10-of-13 in the period.
Kevin Durant’s jumper momentarily stopped the bleeding for Golden State, putting them back up eight – 115-107 – with 3:53 to play, but Sexton drilled a three-pointer on Cleveland’s next possession and scored on a reverse layup to get the Cavs to within three.
But Curry answered with a three of his own and the Cavaliers struggled to score from there. Sexton’s layup with 25.5 to play got the Cavs back to within four, but that’s as close as they’d get – with Curry drilling a pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining to seal the deal.
After struggling on 1-for-9 shooting in the first half, the Young Bull was electric in the second – going 9-for-13 from the floor after intermission, finishing with a team-high 27 points to go with four assists and a pair of steals without committing a single miscue on the night.
Cedi Osman followed up with 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting, adding six boards, two assists and a pair of steals.
Larry Nance Jr. doubled-up for the second straight night – grabbing double-digit rebounds in all five games of the trip – finishing with 13 points, a game-high 14 boards, three assists, three steals and the team’s only block.
Tristan Thompson rounded out the Cavaliers’ starters in double-figures, adding 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting to go with six rebounds.
David Nwaba led three Cavalier reserves in double-figures, scoring nine of his 13 points in the second stanza – going 5-of-7 from the floor, adding seven boards and three assists.
Ante Zizic notched double-figures for the third straight game, finishing with 12 points and six boards.
Jordan Clarkson extended his double-digit scoring streak to a season-best 20 games despite struggling from the floor – chipping in with 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting, adding four assists and a pair of boards.
Curry led both squads in scoring, notching his second 40-point game in as many meetings with Cleveland this year – tallying 40 points on 9-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc, 12-of-21 overall.
Former Canton Charge standout Quinn Cook came off Steve Kerr’s bench to score 14 points in 16 minutes, going 5-for-6 from the field, 4-of-5 from long-distance.
The story of the game – as it often is against the Warriors – was their lethal three-point shooting, going 20-of-37 from beyond the arc.
Cleveland was able to stay in the contest through some rough shooting stretches by going 20-for-22 from the stripe and committing just seven turnovers on the night.
Zizic scores in double figures for the 21st time this season.
Turning Point -- The point at which Friday night’s contest went from a blowout to a white-knuckle ending didn’t materialize until midway through the fourth – with Golden State cruising along with a 16-point edge.
Two quick buckets by Larry Nance and five straight points from David Nwaba, however, got the Cavaliers to within single-digits – 113-105.
Nance scored again on a jump-hook before Sexton took over – notching five straight points of his own to get Cleveland to within a single possession – 115-112.
But the Cavs ran out of gas from there – with Cleveland missing its next three three-point attempts, allowing the Dubs to catch their breath and hold on for the victory.
By the Numbers – 23.9,.523, .473, .891 … Collin Sexton’s scoring average – plus his shooting percentages from the floor, beyond the arc and the stripe – over his last 15 games dating back to March 8, notching at least 20 points in all but two.
Quotable – Larry Nance Jr., on Cleveland’s second-half performance on Friday night …
”That’s something that we’ve shown that we can do all year. For some reason, we play uncharacteristic basketball that doesn’t benefit everybody on the team and we snap out of it in the second half and play like a real team and come together to really put some pressure on some teams. I was impressed with our effort tonight.”
Up Next -- With Friday night’s tough loss in Oakland, the Wine & Gold wrap up the road portion of their 2018-19 schedule and head home for the final two contests at The Q. On Sunday afternoon, the Cavs welcome LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs to town before wrapping up against the Hornets on Fan Appreciation night on Tuesday.