“Tonight was who we are.”
That’s how Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue saw a historic offensive explosion from his Cavaliers team in route to a Game 4 win.
We will see if that level of offense is sustainable, but it was a joy to watch Friday night. Cleveland’s offense looked more like the side that dominated the Eastern Conference playoffs. The numbers were just stunning:
• 49 first quarter points, an NBA record for most points in a quarter.
• 86 points at halftime, also an NBA record.
• 24 made three pointers, also an NBA record (they did that on 54 attempts).
• An offensive rating of 137.1 points per 100 possessions (for comparison the Warriors’ league-best rating for the regular season was 113.2).
• Plus the Cavaliers were making plays like this:
It was the kind of night where even Deron Williams, who had no points in 44 minutes through the first three games had a couple of buckets in this one.
Cleveland had shot 29 percent from three through the first three games of this series, and they can’t win that way — certainly not against the high-powered Warriors (who also had a good offensive night Friday, it was just overwhelmed). Cleveland was more aggressive and more physical to start this game, but the biggest difference was just that their looks were going in — particularly from role players.
“We made shots,” Lue said in an understatement. “We have been getting these shots all series. We haven’t shot the ball very well, but defensively we got stops early and were able to get out in transition and score some easy baskets. And Kevin (Love) shot the ball well. Draymond (Green), he’s one of the best help defenders in the league, and tonight when he was helping, we made him pay. Kevin made shots. When we’re making shots and we’re playing with pace, we’re a tough team to beat. This is who we are. We’re a tough, resilient team.”
“I give them a ton of credit, they made some tough shots,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They made 24 threes, and we knew that we weren’t going to keep them quiet from the three-point line the whole series. They made some tough shots, but we were not sharp defensively, so always a combination. It’s never one thing.”
In a sky full of stars Kyrie Irving was the brightest light in the Cleveland offense Friday, dropping 40 on Golden State. More than leading the team in scoring, he was seemingly the guy who always came up with the big bucket that stopped a Warriors run and kept the Cavaliers in charge.
“Shot some tough ones, and happily they went in,” Irving said. “But other guys just came in, and Kev and J.R., Bron, as well as Shump and Deron and Kyle. I mean, when we’re hitting threes, we’re a different team. And we understand that. But when we take the threes that are in rhythm and we’re getting guys to their spots and we’re unselfish as we were tonight, then our three-pointers are a little bit different, and it makes the difference.”
Will that difference carry over to Game 5 is a question for another day. For now, we should enjoy — you’re not going to see another offesnsive night like this.