Talk from the Golden State Warriors about popping champagne corks and celebrating an NBA title on Cleveland’s court for the second time in three seasons inspired Kyrie Irving to do something to prevent it.
Irving scored 40 points and LeBron James added 31 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds to power the Cavaliers over Golden State 137-116 Friday, averting what would have been a historic win and NBA Finals sweep for the Warriors.
Golden State still leads the best-of-seven title series 3-1 and can claim the trophy at home on Monday. But the loss snapped the Warriors’ NBA-record 15-game playoff win streak and denied them the league’s first unbeaten playoff run.
“You hear some chatter going on throughout the Warriors locker room in terms of them trying to end it here, and it was another do-or-die game for us, and we had to leave it all out there,” Irving said.
“It’s part of the game, I understand that. But we knew what we were faced with. Then you add some chatter in there, and that adds some extra motivation.
“And you give us a day in between and we were ready to come out. Especially me, because that taste wouldn’t have been the same if we would have lost tonight and they would have celebrated on our home floor. So I’ll just leave that at that.”
Irving hit 15-of-27 shots from the floor, going 7-of-12 from 3-point range to set the pace for a finals record 24 3-points on 45 attempts. But it was his extra motivation that caught the notice of James.
“I didn’t hear it, but some of the other guys heard it and told me that they wanted to celebrate on our floor once again and they wanted to spray champagne in our locker rooms,” James said.
“I think it came from Draymond (Green, a Warriors forward), which is OK, that’s Dray anyway.”
James shrugged off unbeaten runs and celebration talk and just kept his mind on the moment.
“I didn’t stress anything besides just live in the moment,” he said. “We have a great opportunity to give ourself another opportunity to keep going. We came out and this was as close to a 48-minute game as we played in the post-season. It was big for us.”
Irving said he scans social media for such slights as premature celebration talk. “We’re in the finals. Everything is accessible. Social media is everywhere. It raises the bar, especially the attention that goes on with it,” Irving said.
“So we see everything. I’ll be sitting up here lying saying that I didn’t see it. But I relish in that challenge. I know my teammates do as well. Definitely heard the chatter.”
Curry said the Warriors will be ready to answer the Cavaliers raising their game. “We got to find our edge and respond,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “So all that chatter and stuff is neither here nor there. It’s whatever you need to get yourself ready to play.”
Green warned that extra motivation is little help at this stage. “Winning a championship is enough motivation. All the antics and stuff don’t really matter. That’s water under the bridge,” Green said.
“If you need extra motivation to go close out in five, you’re screwed, because that won’t be enough motivation.”
LeBron James continued his dynamic playoff run scoring 30 points as the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers exploded for a 130-86 blowout of the Boston Celtics to take a 2-0 lead in their NBA playoff series.
James scored 22 points in the first half on Friday night as the Cavaliers led 72-31 at the break — the largest halftime advantage in NBA postseason history.
It was the biggest playoff win ever for the Cavaliers, who now have the luxury of hosting games three and four in Cleveland.
“I am a guy that lives in the moment. Our team is in a great groove right now,” James said. “We want to try to get better. I said before that we had another level and (people) looked at me like I was crazy,” he added.
“I believe we have another level as well. We can continue to get better. No complacency with us right now.”
The Celtics team had its heart ripped out for the second game in a row at the Boston Garden. It marked the worst home playoff loss in franchise history, falling three points shy of matching Boston’s worst postseason defeat.
James’s performance came in front of a crowd of 18,600 and just hours after he was snubbed as a nominee for the league’s MVP award.
“What can I do about it? My only job is to be MVP of this team every night. I know what I bring to the table,” he said.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue didn’t agree with leaving James’s name off the three-man nominee list.
“I look at LeBron like Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal),” said Lue. “I think every year he’s the MVP and you could give him the award every year if you wanted to.”
James has scored 30 points in eight straight games as he looks to visit the finals for the seventh-straight season. He has never lost a playoff series when his team has been up 2-0.
Heading into the game, James was averaging 34.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game in these playoffs.
He dished out seven assists and added four rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots, while Kevin Love had 21 points and 12 rebounds and Kyrie Irving 23 points.
The win was the Cavaliers’ 13th straight in the playoffs, dating back to the last three games of the finals last year. The streak equals an NBA record.