Burst­ing fourth

War­riors’ last-quar­ter surge, led by Curry, puts them on brink

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han

OAK­LAND — A mere 48 min­utes could sep­a­rate the Golden State War­riors from 40 years of heart­break.

A fourth-quar­ter burst pushed them to a 104-91 victory Sun­day over the Cleve­land Cava­liers and oh-so-close to an NBA cham­pi­onship.

Yel­low con­fetti driz­zled from the ceil­ing at Or­a­cle Arena as War­riors fans snapped pic­tures from cell­phones, know­ing the se­ries could end Tues­day with Game 6 in Cleve­land.

How badly do the War­riors want it, their first cham­pi­onship since 1975?

“What’s the best way to say ‘re­ally bad’?” said War­riors guard Stephen Curry, emerg­ing from a game of small ball vs. small ball with 37 points.

Curry, though, felt symptoms of de­hy­dra- tion af­ter leav­ing his postgame in­ter­view with re­porters. He had to con­sume ex­tra flu­ids and re­laxed by watch­ing TV in the locker room, ac­cord­ing to War­riors spokesman Ray­mond Rid­der.

LeBron James had 40 points, 14 re­bounds and 11 as­sists as the Cava­liers fell fur­ther from win­ning the first cham­pi­onship in their 45-year his­tory.

James’ ef­fort was all but over­shad­owed by im­me­di­ate sec­ond-guess­ing of Cava­liers Coach David Blatt, who matched the War­riors’ tiny lineup by play­ing guard J.R. Smith much more than cen­ter Ti­mofey Moz­gov.

Moz­gov had 28 points and 10 re­bounds in Game 4 against the un­der­sized War­riors but was an af­ter­thought Sun­day, play­ing only five min­utes in the first quar­ter and four more af­ter that, mak­ing Cleve­land’s Tris­tan Thomp­son the tallest player used by ei­ther team most of the game. He is 6 feet 9. Moz­gov was score­less with no re­bounds.

“I thought I was pretty clear … I thought that was our best chance to win the game, and we were def­i­nitely in the game with a chance to win,” Blatt said af­ter re­peated ques­tions from re­porters about the de­ci­sion to go small. “So that’s the way we played it. So I thought I was pretty clear with that.”

Smith had 14 points in the first half, fi­nally awak­en­ing af­ter a dud of a se­ries. Or so it ap­peared.

He was a non-fac­tor in the sec­ond half, go­ing score­less and leav­ing James to try to carry ev­ery­thing alone.

In Blatt’s de­fense, the game was tight un­til Curry scored on a driv­ing layup and then a 27-foot three­p­ointer af­ter putting on a drib­bling clinic with Matthew Dellave­dova guard­ing him. The lat­ter gave Golden State a 96-86 lead with 2:44 to play.

Curry had 17 points in the fourth quar­ter as the War­riors burst free with 31.

“Not a lot you can do, hon­estly,” Blatt said. “There are a few that he made, more than a few, that were ex­tremely dif­fi­cult shots — high, high-level shots by a high-level player.”

James kept the game in­ter­est­ing against the heav­ily fa­vored War­riors, ac­count­ing for 26 of the Cava­liers’ 32 field goals. He drew an un­easy re­ac­tion from ner­vous War­riors fans by hit­ting a 34foot three-pointer with 7:47 to play, giv­ing Cleve­land an 80-79 lead.

But Curry an­swered with a 26-footer and Klay Thomp­son added a 29-footer for an 85-80 War­riors edge with 6:49 left.

“A long sea­son goes into th­ese last mo­ments of the Fi­nals se­ries,” Curry said. “We fought hard all year and put our­selves in good po­si­tion now to go to Cleve­land and hope­fully close it out.”

Dray­mond Green had 16 points while again start­ing at cen­ter for Golden State. He is 6 feet 7.

James al­most had a triple-dou­ble in the first half, scor­ing 20 points with eight re­bounds and eight as­sists, prac­ti­cally the only rea­son the Cava­liers were down by only a point, 51-50.

“I feel con­fi­dent be­cause I’m the best player in the world,” James said mat­terof-factly when asked whether he felt con­fi­dent de­spite the Cava­liers be­ing se­verely un­der­manned.

But James seemed ir­ri­tated in the game’s fi­nal minute, con­test­ing a non­call when he thought Curry car­ried the ball over in the back­court. He spent about half a minute jaw­ing at the ref­eree who made the call, to no avail, even though the War­riors were ahead by nine.

Maybe we’ve seen the best of the Cava­liers, scor­ing un­ex­pected vic­to­ries in Games 2 and 3. At least that’s what the War­riors hope.

Bob Donnan Getty Images

STEPHEN CURRY (30) of the War­riors goes up for a shot while de­fended by Iman Shumpert of the Cava­liers. Curry made seven three-point­ers and fin­ished with 37 points as Cleve­land had no an­swers for him late in the game.

Fred­eric J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

CAVA­LIERS’ LeBron James, who had 40 points, 14 re­bounds and 11 as­sists, fights for pos­ses­sion against the War­riors’ Klay Thomp­son, left, and An­dre Iguo­dala.

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