Andre Iguodala scored a season-high 22 points and Steph Curry added 22 as the Golden State Warriors downed Cleveland 103-82 Thursday to level the NBA Finals at two wins each.
Iguodala, inserted into the starting lineup to boost early scoring and help contain Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, did both as the Warriors found their form ahead of game five Sunday in Oakland with game six Tuesday at Cleveland.
“We just wanted to speed up the pace a little bit,” Iguodala said. “We said, ‘Let’s throw a little wrinkle in and see how it works.'”
The Warriors had lost two in a row and avoided their first three-game losing skid of the season, a vital feat given that no team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals.
A bloodied James, who had been averaging 41 points in the finals, suffered two cuts to the right side of his head after a second-quarter fall and battled leg cramps and fatigue in the second half.
“He’s the best player in the world for a reason,” said Iguodala. “It was a great opportunity to see what we could do.”
The Warriors seek their first crown since 1975 while the Cavaliers are trying to end a 51-year title drought for all Cleveland sports teams since the 1964 NFL Browns, the longest such curse on any US city.
Golden State opened a 63-50 edge in the third quarter before a 20-10 Cleveland run. James scored 10 points and Mozgov added eight in the rally, which ended with a James free throw cutting the Warriors lead to 73-70.
Golden State answered with a 20-7 run, Curry scoring eight points and Iguodala sinking two 3-pointers in the span as the Warriors seized a 93-77 edge with 5:35 to play, too much for the weary Cavaliers to overcome.
“We came out with a lot of speed,” said Iguodala. “It’s hard to keep up with us.”
Russian center Timofey Mozgov led Cleveland with 28 points, his NBA career high, and 10 rebounds while James had 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
– Warriors find early form –
Iguodala, a teammate of James on the 2012 gold medal US Olympic team, started in place of Australian big man Andrew Bogut as Golden State, the NBA’s most prolific scoring team, tried to shake off prior early-game struggles.
The Warriors fell behind 7-0 but quickly found their shooting touch and forced a faster tempo, battling back within 20-17, then unleashing a 14-2 run to seize a 31-22 lead, Iguodala scoring five in the key spurt and nine in the first quarter.
It was the best-scoring first quarter of the finals for the NBA’s top offensive unit while for Cleveland, James was often double teamed defensively as the Cavaliers struggled and the Warriors stretched the lead to 44-32 with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter.
That’s when James joined the Cavaliers’ injury list. He was fouled by Bogut, stumbled as he fell along the baseline and struck a cameraman, opening two deep cuts on the left side of his head when he struck the lens, then grabbing his head as he writhed in pain at the feet of the front row of spectators.
James used a towel to wipe the blood from his head and continued playing, but Golden State kept the same margin at half-time, leading 54-42 with Draymond Green’s hitting 13 of his 17 total points in the first half to lead a balanced Warrior attack.
Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova, hospitalized with cramping after game three, made two 3-pointers early in the third quarter as Cleveland pulled within 59-50, although the Aussie went briefly to the bench with upper leg cramps. He finished with 10 points. – Agence France-Presse