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NBA Playoffs 2016

LeBron James came to Cleveland to win a title but Cavaliers are on the ropes after game four loss

The home side lose 108-97 to Golden State to trail 3-1 in the NBA finals as Stephen Curry leads the way for Warriors

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 June, 2016, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 June, 2016, 2:03pm

LeBron James said game four was another “do-or-die” scenario for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He can only hope he was wrong. The NBA finals have all but slipped away from James and the Cavaliers, an offensive disaster of a fourth quarter their undoing in what became a 108-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors in game four on Saturday morning (Hong Kong time).

[LeBron’s] a freight train out there ... no matter what you do, he’s going to have a huge stat line and he’s going to impact the game 1,000 different ways
Steve Kerr, Warriors coach

Cleveland now trail the series 3-1, a deficit that no team have ever successfully overcome in the championship round. Game five is Tuesday morning (HK time) in Oakland, where the defending champions Warriors are 50-3 this season. If Cleveland are going to pull off this miracle, they’ll need to win there twice.

Stephen Curry found his long-range touch and scored 38 points, Klay Thompson added 25 and the Warriors rebounded from a big loss by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-97 on Friday night.

Curry had scored just 48 total points in the first three games, but the two-time league MVP made seven three-pointers and Thompson, his Splash Brother, drained four as the Warriors took a 3-1 lead in the series.

So it’s not over. It only seems that way, and James’ all-too-familiar June nightmare is one loss away from being officially complete.

“If you don’t think we can win, don’t get on the plane,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said, when asked what the approach is now.

This is James’ seventh trip to the finals, and barring the most improbable of comebacks this will be his fifth time watching someone else hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. He’ll likely be blamed for yet another setback, even though he’s averaging 24.7 points, 11 rebounds and 9.3 assists in this series.

He told the Cavaliers to follow his lead, took the blame when they fell behind 2-0 in the series, has tried to say and do all the right things.

“We’re just trying our best,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s a freight train out there. We have certain rules and we’re trying to follow our rules ... but no matter what you do, he’s going to have a huge stat line and he’s going to impact the game 1,000 different ways.”

True, but the Warriors are one win from denying him again. It went six games last year when the Cavaliers didn’t have Kevin Love for the entirety of the series and Kyrie Irving for most of the match-up. This one could end in five even though Irving has played well for much of this match-up and Love returned to the line-up for game four after missing essentially six quarters with a concussion.

Cleveland were threatening to take control early in the third of game four, leading by eight. Less than 30 seconds later, the lead was down to two.

Stephen Curry three-pointer. Splash.

Klay Thompson three-pointer. Splash.

The Warriors suddenly had life. Cleveland’s lead was 83-81 when James scored with 10:21 left, and it was about seven minutes before the Cavaliers managed another field goal. A 12-1 run in the fourth put the Warriors on top for good, and that 11-point margin was the exact difference between the teams when time expired.

“I went with my best players in the fourth quarter ... and it didn’t work,” Lue said.

All James could do then was glumly slap hands with a few of his teammates, his face hardly showing any emotion. Fans started leaving long before the final horn, quite possibly for the final time this season.

The Eastern Conference championship banner for this season is already swaying from the rafters in Quicken Loans Arena, and “2015-16” has been added to the banner displaying Central Division titles next to that one.

Since the Cleveland Browns won their last football title in 1964 – the championship game wasn’t even known as the Super Bowl then – Cleveland has experienced 147 NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL opening days with title dreams that ultimately were dashed. Yes, an NHL team was briefly here.

Over that span, 56 different franchises in the four biggest US sports leagues have at least one championship.

James came back to Cleveland after four wildly successful years in Miami to end that drought.

His summer might start as early as Monday, the drought still there.