CLEVELAND — After dominating the Golden State Warriors with a wire-to-wire 137-116 victory in a must-win Game 4 of the NBA Finals, several Cleveland Cavaliers players said the Warriors’ “chatter” leading up to Friday fueled their performance.
In other words, Draymond Green‘s mouth got Golden State in trouble again.
“You add, of course, some chatter in there, and that adds some extra motivation,” said Kyrie Irving after leading all scorers with 40 points. “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 was referring to an interview Green gave Thursday, when he openly relished in the seeming inevitability of the Warriors winning their second championship in three years on Cleveland’s home court.
“It will be very satisfying to do that,” Green said, responding to a reporter’s hypothetical question. “You know, we obviously won it here before. It’s a great feeling, winning on somebody else’s floor, celebrating on their floor, celebrating in their locker room, quieting their crowd. As an athlete, one of the best feelings is going into enemy territory and just silencing their crowd. So it’ll be a great feeling.
“But at the end of the day, it don’t matter where you win at, as long as you can win it. The opportunity is win it here, so you want to take advantage of that. Try to close it out as soon as you can.”
A win would have not only crowned the Warriors as champs but also cemented their place in history as the first team to have a 16-0 postseason. Instead, the Cavs played their best game of the season, setting Finals records for most 3-pointers made (24), most points in any quarter (49) and in a half (86). And they did it with Green’s comments dancing in their heads.
“I didn’t hear it, but some of the other guys heard it and told me that that they wanted to celebrate on our floor once again, and they wanted to spray champagne in our locker rooms,” said LeBron James who put up 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his record-setting ninth Finals triple-double. “And I think it came from Draymond, which is OK. That’s Dray anyway.”
Green is a business associate of James’, signed to his multimedia content platform, Uninterrupted, as a contributor and podcast host. The pair were featured in an Uninterrupted video titled “The Shop,” released Friday featuring a 30-minute, free-flowing conversation among James, Green and friends in a barbershop setting.
The talk in Game 4 was far less congenial.
“It’s The Finals,” Tristan Thompson said. “Guys are going to talk. We’re going to respond but they aren’t going to punk us. Not me. They’re not about to punk Tristan Thompson. You got the game f—ed up with that one. You can talk all you want but I’m definitely going to bark back. That’s just how I’m built.”
“I’m standing my ground,” Jones said. “He comes to me and is saying something disrespectful. I speak to him, they T me up. OK. Fall in love with the superstars. That’s cool. That’s fine. Did y’all watch Draymond Green talk behind the ref’s back to Tristan Thompson? As soon as the ref turns his back, he’s got something to say.”
Jones showed no remorse in costing his team a point (Stephen Curry made the technical free throw) without even being in the game.
“I’m sure, it’s a room full of men here, if somebody disrespects you to your face, to turn the other cheek and not say anything is really not going to happen 90 percent of the time,” Jones said. “So, I stood my ground. But he did walk over to me. And somehow he didn’t get it reciprocated [with a technical foul]. That’s fine, though. That’s the type of attitude we have to have as a team.”
After making the first step to climb back in the series at 3-1, the Cavs felt emboldened to talk back.
“We see everything. I’ll be sitting up here lying saying that I didn’t see it,” Irving said. “But I relish in that challenge. I know my teammates do as well. So it’s been going back and forth all season, and now we’re in The Finals and everything is just pinpointed. … But definitely heard the chatter.”