CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers earned their first win of the 2017 NBA Finals by using their physicality to pressure the Golden State Warriors into mistakes and earn extra possessions with hustle on the offensive glass.
Facing a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series, the Cavaliers needed every bit of physicality to earn a 137-116 victory in Game 4 Friday night, which forced tonight’s Game 5 matchup against the Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
“I thought the first two games were being too nice,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “The first three games, helping guys up off the floor, smiling, talking to guys, I didn’t like that. So I think Game 4, talking trash, being physical, whatever you’ve got to do to try to get that edge to win, you’ve got to do it.”
In the Game 4 victory, the Cavaliers drew 12 fouls against Golden State in the first quarter, and on the strength of a 49-point period, rode the momentum to the lopsided victory.
Cleveland held a 41-40 edge in rebounding, including a 30-24 advantage on the defensive end of the floor, and also, used its relentless pursuit of the basketball to turn 12 Golden State turnovers into 18 points.
The Cavaliers pulled down 11 offensive rebounds, and turned them into 21 second-chance points, where they had a 21-16 edge in scoring.
“I thought we brought a physicality to the game,” Lue said. “I thought our defensive mindset was really good, and I thought offensively, we really played with a pace. We shared the basketball. We moved bodies, and it was very effective for us, so we have to have a carryover to Game 5.
“Our mindset has to be winning games and not smiling back and forth or talking and playing. I mean, they’re coming right after us, so we have to go after them. I don’t see anything’s funny or anything’s to smile about, so hitting and being physical and just everything they do to us in the first three games, we have to do that.”
And if the Cavaliers are to force a Game 6 back in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night, they know that physicality remains the important part of their strategy for success.
“In Game 4, I thought that’s who we are,” Lue said. “Got to be physical. If it’s talking trash or knocking guys on the floor, whatever you’ve got to do, you’ve got to do it. We have to be physical.
“We’re playing against a great team, and we know you have to play great every, single night. And both teams in The Finals, they both feel the same way. So we have to come back with that defensive mindset, with the physicality that we had, and just playing with pace and sharing the basketball. I think if we can kind of duplicate that same thing we did in Game 4, we have a good chance to win in Game 5.”
Point guard Kyrie Irving added, “Being down 3-1, we understand that it’s a predicament that we put ourselves in. But coming out in Game 5, we feel like if we come to play and we make sure that we focus on our game plan and we bring the physicality and we bring it to them, then we’ll put ourselves in a great position.”
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