OAKLAND, California – Seven technical fouls, one flagrant foul, stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant jawing at each other and several other dustups.
For Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, the physical turn the NBA Finals took in Game 4 is just what he wanted and is the recipe he hopes the Cavaliers will follow for the rest of the series against the Golden State Warriors.
“Me personally, I liked it,” Lue said Sunday. “I thought the first two games we were being too nice. The first three games, helping guys up off the floor, smiling, talking to guys and — yeah, I didn’t like that. So I think Game 4, talking trash, being physical, whatever you got to do to try to get that edge to win, you got to do it.”
The Cavs look to carry that same mindset into Game 5, when they once again try to stave off elimination.
After two straight Golden State blowouts to open the series and a thrilling comeback in Game 3, things turned feisty in Game 4 as the teams that are meeting in a third straight Finals showed some animosity.
James said the Cavs were upset about comments from Golden State’s Draymond Green about wanting to celebrate a title on Cleveland’s floor for the second time in three seasons.
The game started off with an edge and things really took off in the third quarter. It started when Durant took exception to a blow to the head from Kevin Love that led to a flagrant foul and a face-to-face confrontation with James.
It escalated late in the third after a scramble to the floor for a loose ball led to a jump ball. Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert stood over Pachulia and tried to grab the ball after the whistle. Pachulia then delivered two swipes to Shumpert’s groin area, leading to technical fouls on both players.
“It was totally between the lines and with the respect of the rules,” Pachulia said of the physical play. “Nothing has crossed the line. It’s emotional. It’s possibly the last game of the season, so you definitely don’t want to give up anything easy. We know it’s not going to be an easy game for us. We’re going to earn it.”
The more physical play appeared to be just the thing to get Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson unleashed. A key player the past two years because of his relentless rebounding and hard-nosed play, Thompson had been mostly invisible the first three games with just 11 rebounds.
Thompson had 10 alone in Game 4, including four on the offensive end that gave Cleveland extra opportunities to score and prevented the Warriors from getting out in the break.
“T-Lue has been saying that since Game 1, the team that has the starting lineup that comes out and sets the tone early and is more physical one through five will definitely have the advantage in the game,” Thompson said. “We did that Game 4 and we got to have that same type of effort and even more in Game 5.”
That’s exactly the attitude Lue wants rather than the congeniality the bothered him so much at the start of a series between teams that have so much respect for each other.
“They’re coming right after us, so we have to get after them,” he said. “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. Last game, in Game 4, I thought that’s who we are. Got to be physical. If it’s talking trash or knocking guys on the floor, whatever you got to do, you got to do it.”