CLEVELAND — No panic, no playing around. Just California cool.
The Golden State Warriors simply did what they had to do, and now they’re going home in the same shape as when they left — tied in the NBA Finals.
Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala scored 22 points apiece and the Warriors, showing why they were the league’s best team all season, squared the finals at 2-2 on Thursday night with a 103-82 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Game 5 is Sunday night at Oakland’s rambunctious Oracle Arena, where the teams split two overtime games last week.
LeBron James scored 20 points with 12 rebounds and eight assists, but Cleveland’s megastar, who played with a cut on his head sustained in the first half, couldn’t do enough for the undermanned Cavaliers. Timofey Mozgov led Cleveland with 28 points and Matthew Dellavedova, again battling leg cramps after a hospital stay, had 10.
The Warriors were in a must-win situation as none of the 32 teams who have fallen behind 3-1 in the finals have come back to win an NBA title. Golden State doesn’t have to worry about that, and now it’s possible the Warriors will get to play two more games on their home court if the series goes the distance. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Building off a strong fourth quarter in Game 3 that gave them confidence, the Warriors showed a sense of urgency from the outset and took it to the Cavs. Iguodala, who played so well coming off the bench in the first three games, started and made coach Steve Kerr’s decision look brilliant.
Known for his defense, Iguodala made four 3-pointers and Curry, the league MVP, made four as well, including a deep dagger in the fourth. With Cavs still hanging around, Curry hit a step-back 3 on the left side that stopped the Cavs cold and silenced a roaring crowd of 20,562. After his shot splashed through the net, Curry clenched both fists, pounded his chest and yelled, “C’mon!”
The Warriors followed their leader and now they’re headed home brimming with confidence.
Draymond Green added 17 points and Harrison Barnes had 14 for Golden State, which didn’t lose three straight games all season racking up 67 wins.
Looking for a spark, Kerr decided to go “small” with his starting lineup, putting Iguodala at forward, moving Green to center and benching struggling big man Andrew Bogut. Kerr initially said he wouldn’t make any changes, but went with a lineup that worked well late in Game 3, when the Warriors scored 36 points and trimmed a 20-point deficit to one.
Kerr got the result he wanted, but only after the Warriors withstood an early flurry from the Cavs, who scored the game’s first seven points.
Golden State’s ball movement was better, and shots that didn’t drop in the first three games were on the mark.