Nobody is perfect. Not the Golden State Warriors. Not the referees, clearly. Not even the Cleveland Cavaliers, who didn’t make every shot they took in Game 4. It only seemed that way.
The fallout from an explosive, testy and rather bizarre Friday night in Cleveland is that LeBron James finds himself in the same predicament as last season: needing a win on Sunday in Oakland to keep the Cavs season alive and force a Game 6 back on his home turf.
“Our mindset,” LeBron said, “is to go out there and get one.’’
The Warriors bid for an unblemished postseason ended in a barrage of 3-pointers and free throws. The Cavs knocked down a staggering 24 3-pointers to set an NBA Finals record. Meanwhile, the tone of the game was set in the first quarter when the Cavs scored 49 points while attempting 22 free throws. That’s 22 free throws in the first quarter.
To put that in perspective, in the first half of Game’s 1, 2 and 3, Cleveland attempted a total of 43 free throws over 72 minutes. On Friday, the Cavs had 22 in the opening 12 minutes.
Gentlemen, start your conspiracy theories.
“Nice try,” Steve Kerr said when asked about the officiating.
But before you go down that road just remember that the Cavs, in danger of being swept away and going into the history books for all the wrong reasons, played like a team that didn’t want to begin their vacation on Saturday. They were the more aggressive team. They made shots and they attacked the basket. That tends to lead to more calls.
“I mean, you could nitpick each call, but they were the aggressor to begin with, and usually the aggressor gets the favorable whistle,” Stephen Curry said.
Where the NBA officiating crew erred — a bad look for the league, Jeff Van Gundy called it — was when they spared Draymond Green from being ejected in the third quarter. There were seven technical fouls called in Game 4 and for a while it looked like two had been called on Green when in fact the refs later ruled that the first one was incorrectly assessed to Green. It should have been given to Kerr.
Still, the NBA’s official first half box score had the technical being called on Green. Even ABC’s sideline reporter Doris Burke revealed that the scorer’s table said the officials called the technical on Green. A second would have resulted in an automatic ejection. Instead, it created exactly the type of controversy the league didn’t need at its showcase event.
Perhaps it was an innocent mistake. On the play in question a loose ball foul was called on Green and perhaps the referee failed to notify the official scorer that the personal foul was Green, the technical on Kerr.
In retrospect, the Warriors may have been better off with Green sent to the showers in a game they appeared destined to lose. Green is the emotional leader of the Warriors, no question about it. But his suspension in Game 5 last season set the stage for LeBron and the Cavs to recover from a 3-1 series deficit.
Golden State should be working on a three-peat this year if not for Green’s inability to keep his composure. But a year later in Game 4 he was running his mouth, egging on the fans and behaving as if he hadn’t learned anything.
This is still the Warriors series to win. The comparisons to the greatest teams ever will have to wait. The Warriors won’t get to 16-0. A 16-1 mark isn’t bad, however.
But they will need one more win and they have three chances to do so. They were right here last year and blew it. A repeat collapse would mean that the team being touted as perhaps the greatest ever just a few days ago, has been part of the two biggest collapses in NBA Finals history.
That will be a rough one for Kevin Durant and Curry to recover from.
Anything is possible, especially when you’re going up against LeBron. Just remember last season. And never forget the strange events from Friday in Cleveland.
‘’We have championship DNA,’’ said James, who broke Magic Johnson’s record with his ninth triple-double in the Finals. ‘’We showed that tonight. We just kept our composure. We shared the ball, we moved the ball and defensively we were physical. It’s one game.”