N.B.A. Finals: Golden State Warriors Get Mad and Pull Even With Cleveland Cavaliers


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Andre Iguodala of the Warriors dunking during the first half. Iguodala finished the game with 22 points, tied for the team high.

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Pool photo by Larry W. Smith

CLEVELAND — Before they arrived at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night, the Golden State Warriors spent roughly 45 hours stewing over their predicament in the N.B.A. finals. Choose an adjective, any adjective: upset, frustrated, angry or perhaps several others not suitable for print.

The Warriors were mad, and Andre Iguodala went so far as to express displeasure that he even had to show up at the arena on Wednesday for news media responsibilities.

When they took the court against the Cleveland Cavaliers for Game 4, the Warriors looked determined to even things up by playing with greater energy. But they also leaned heavily on tactics, opting for speed over size in hopes of jarring the series loose from its languid pace.

Iguodala, who started for the first time all season, had a lot to do with that. The game was not always pretty — these two teams are grappling for space on every possession — but the Warriors unearthed more than enough offense for a 103-82 victory, tying the series at two games each. Game 5 will be in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday.

“We needed a change,” said Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors. “We needed to shift the tempo, and that’s why we did it.”

Iguodala, the team’s best player in the series, according to Kerr, infused Golden State with energy and quickness, finishing with 22 points and 8 rebounds. Stephen Curry also had 22 points for the Warriors, who shot 46.8 percent from the field and played smothering defense. The Cavaliers were 4 of 27 from the 3-point line.

“We didn’t make shots,” said David Blatt, the coach of the Cavaliers.

Fans began to funnel toward the exits midway through the fourth quarter, a deflating outcome with the Cavaliers still two wins from their first championship.

LeBron James, who had been so extraordinary for Cleveland through the first three games of the series, finished with 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting. Defended by Iguodala for much of the game, James hit the floor more than once, with varying degrees of severity.

“You just try to take him out of his comfort zone,” Iguodala said. “It sounds easier said than done.”

The Cavaliers were trailing by 12 when the Warriors’ Andrew Bogut fouled James on a baseline drive. After tumbling headfirst into a large camera along the baseline, James remained on the court, cradling his bleeding head as teammates gathered around him. He remained in the game, not that his night improved much.

“I was just trying to regain my composure,” James said. “I was just hoping I wasn’t bleeding, but obviously the camera cut me pretty bad.”

Without the injured Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to help ease his scoring burden, James was again left to try to do the superhuman for Cleveland. But his familiar burst was lacking, Matthew Dellavedova and J. R. Smith combined to shoot 5 of 26, and the team’s game operations staff seemed to sense doom before halftime.

“We have no reason to panic whatsoever!” came the cry over the arena’s speakers.

Except they did. The series has turned into a psychological test.

“My brain is fried,” Iguodala said.

After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Cavaliers rallied at the start of the third quarter behind Dellavedova, who hit two 3-pointers. Later, James scored consecutive baskets — a layup and a soaring alley-oop dunk after a turnover by the Warriors — to trim Golden State’s lead to 65-62.

James kept shedding defenders, one after another, searching for the rim. He scored on a putback that cut the Cavaliers’ deficit to 4 late in the third.

But Draymond Green opened the fourth with a fast-break dunk, and Curry soon fed Klay Thompson for a layup and a 10-point lead. Iguodala put the Warriors ahead by 16 with a 3-pointer, and the Cavaliers were out of answers. Blatt cited fatigue as a factor.

“Tonight was the third game in five days, including the trip back from the West Coast,” he said. “It seemed to have an impact.”

James said, “I ran through those 12 minutes in the third and just gassed out.”

The Warriors were coming off dismal efforts in Game 2 and Game 3, their offense stymied as James slowed the pace of each game. The fact that both games were decided in the final seconds was cause for some optimism given the Warriors’ dire circumstances.

Kerr knew he needed to make adjustments in Game 4. Despite saying about an hour before the game that his starting lineup would remain the same — “I lied,” he clarified later — he opted for Iguodala to replace the struggling Bogut. Green shifted to center from power forward.

It was an unusual move. Iguodala had been a regular off the bench, and the absence of Bogut left the lane open for James to penetrate. But this was a gamble that Kerr was willing to take. He would sacrifice rim protection for more flow — or at least some flow — on the offensive end.

“We had five guys out there that can run pretty fast,” Kerr said.

It did not go so well at the start. The Cavaliers grabbed five of the game’s first six rebounds and ran out to a 7-0 lead before Kerr called his first timeout. But he stuck with the lineup, clearly hoping his players could weather the storm — and they did, running out in transition and finding open shots from the perimeter.

Harrison Barnes, after shooting 0 for 8 in Game 3, made two shots in the opening eight minutes of Game 4. Thompson later buried a jumper for a 22-20 lead.

Kerr quickly made another move, summoning David Lee from the bench — yes, the same David Lee who did not play a single minute in the first two games of the series. But he had led the Warriors late in Game 3 by setting screens and clearing space for Curry.

Kerr wanted more of the same in Game 4, and sure enough, the Warriors’ lead began to swell. Lee escaped for a backdoor layup. Thompson made a 3-pointer. Shaun Livingston hit a turnaround jumper, and the Warriors went ahead by 54-42 at halftime, fully prepared to spend another two quarters grinding out a win.

“We understand the commitment and the sacrifice we need to make,” Iguodala said.



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