Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Believe a little longer: Cavs vs Warriors Game 6 Behind the Box Score

The Cleveland Cavaliers jumped out to a quick start in the first quarter of Game 6 against the Golden State Warriors, and then held on to even up the series and force a Game 7.

Golden State Warriors 101
Cleveland Cavaliers 115
[Box Score]

Series tied 3-3

You had to think the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to come out with exceptional energy in front of an energized (to put it lightly) home crowd looking to cheer this team one last time. The Cavaliers did that and then some.

The Golden State Warriors looked shell-shocked in the first quarter as the Cavaliers defense was all over the place, forcing bad passes and less-than-ideal shots, and turning the misses into points on the other end. The Cavaliers held a 31-11 lead after one quarter, and from there it was mostly the Cavaliers hanging on for dear life and LeBron James leading his team to a huge Game 6 win.

The Warriors did what they do, going on runs that have made opponents wilt all season long. But the Cavaliers never wilted. Every time the Warriors made it a game again, the Cavaliers answered the run with one of their own.

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All season long we’ve seen teams fall apart against the Warriors. The Cavaliers did it themselves in the first two games of this series, and again in the fourth quarter of Game 4. But this time, it was the Warriors who seemed to fall apart, making crippling errors at the most inopportune moments. It all culminated in Steph Curry making a poor decision putting himself in position to get called for his sixth foul and then throwing his mouthpiece at a fan. It was a stunning lack of composure from the reigning Champs and a team that won 73 games in the regular season.

So now the series shifts back to Oakland for one last game. For the first time in franchise history, the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing a game for an NBA Championship. They no longer have to beat the Warriors three games in a row. They only need to win one game. Literally anything can happen in Game 7. Some players will rise to the occasion, some might not, but in the end the NBA will be crowning a Champion on Sunday.

So lets look at the numbers…

41/8/11 – Look, there’s nowhere else to start but with LeBron James. The greatest player in the game was simply dominant with 41 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists. But truly, those numbers don’t even begin to tell the whole story. LeBron has played so many special games in the playoffs in his life, but this one ranks right up there with almost any of them. LeBron’s imprint was all over this game. I thought late in the third quarter LeBron actually let the Warriors back in it a bit with some bad possessions when Kyrie Irving went to the bench for rest. But LeBron answered with 17 fourth quarter points and 4 assists in the final quarter to secure the win. Time and time again LeBron made huge plays to stop the Warriors from ever gaining momentum, including an epic block on a Steph Curry shot.

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22.7% - In the first quarter the Cavaliers held the Warriors to just 22.7 percent shooting to really set the tone for the game. Most importantly, the Cavaliers were keeping the Warriors from getting the shots they wanted from the players they wanted. Harrison Barnes tied Klay Thompson for the most shots in the quarter with five, and he missed all of them. Shaun Livingston was 0 for 4 in the quarter. Meanwhile Steph Curry only had three shots in the quarter, a combination of Kyrie Irving sticking with him off the ball and Curry getting into early foul trouble.

6 – Steph Curry committed six fouls, thus being disqualified from the game. Upon picking up his sixth foul with 4:22 left in the game, Curry threw his mouthpiece in frustration, with the mouthpiece hitting a fan. After the game Steve Kerr earned himself yet another fine, blasting the officials for making what he felt were atrocious calls. Some of the calls were debatable, no doubt. However, Curry also had plenty of other situations where he put himself in position where fouls could have been called, but weren’t. Curry didn’t play particularly smart with the foul trouble, daring the refs to call fouls against him. As for the mouthpiece, no, Curry shouldn’t be suspended for it. But there could be some chatter about it, particularly with the precedent of Udonis Haslem being suspended in the playoffs before for throwing his mouthpiece at a ref. Obviously the intent and situations were pretty different, and I don’t think anyone believes Curry will be suspended for Game 7 for this. But it might be a talking point.

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15 and 16Tristan Thompson had a monster game of his own with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Tristan seemed to grab every single rebound in the first quarter to keep the Warriors to one-and-done possessions as they were missing seemingly every shot. Tristan was a team-high +32 for the game, doing a little bit of everything from defending, rebounding, and even staying active on offense. He hit 3 of his 4 free throws and had a couple impressive alley oop finishes.

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1 – Kyrie Irving started off looking like a lock for his fourth consecutive 30 point game. But in the third quarter he tweaked his foot while trying to dribble around a screen and either stepped on someone’s foot or else had his foot stepped on. Either way, Kyrie was clearly in pain and only scored one point the rest of the game, coming on a technical free throw after Curry’s ejection. I thought Kyrie still gave pretty good effort on defense after that point, but on offense he was pretty much standing in the corner, clearly unable to cut the way he wanted to, and thus served as a decoy for LeBron and the rest of his teammates. Kyrie finished with 23 points and had a solid overall game, but the foot is concerning. It was evident it was troubling him and he wasn’t himself in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers need Kyrie to be himself if they’re going to win Game 7, so this will be something to pay attention to over the next couple days.

8 – Draymond Green made a lot of noise about how the Warriors would have won Game 5 had he been active and how he was going to come back with a vengeance. Instead, it was a pretty pedestrian game for Draymond with 8 points and 10 rebounds. It’s hard to say how much Draymond’s flagrant count is in his head and limited his aggressiveness, but it was a little surprising to see how little impact he had on this game.

Sunday will be Father’s Day, a special day for fathers and their sons and daughters, with sports so often being a huge part of that bond. Playing a Game 7 with a chance to win a Championship on Father’s Day is going to be a special moment for everyone involved.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s hard to place all these emotions as a fan. Only three times in NBA history has a team been down 3-1 in a series and come back to force a Game 7. None of them won that final game. So the Cavaliers have already accomplished something historical in one sense, just forcing this Game 7. But it’s not enough for these players, I’m sure. They now have a chance to do something so indescribably great, a moment that would live in legends for the rest of time. That’s not being hyperbolic, either. That’s what the Cavaliers have given themselves an opportunity to be a part of.

You can break down Xs and Os, momentum, injuries, everything. But it’s so up in the air. Anything can happen. It’s going to be an amazing moment no matter what. Believe a little longer, Cleveland. Win or lose, this amazing season ends on Sunday.

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