Basketball fans knew when the season began that the Christmas Day matchup in Cleveland, Ohio between the defending champs Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors would be worth the price of admission.
Fans were not disappointed as the Cavaliers had to dig deep in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to beat the Warriors, their opponents in last year’s finals, 109-108 at Quick Loans Arena on Christmas Day.
The loss to the Cavs, their biggest rivals in the NBA right now, ended the Warriors seven-game winning streak.
The Cavaliers celebrated this regular season win against the Warriors as if they had just successfully defended their title.
To say that each team wanted to win this matchup so badly would be an understatement.
Just like in Game 7 of last year’s epic NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving made the biggest impact in this showdown for the defending champs.
Irving, who could not have been better defended by the Warriors Klay Thompson, who was all over him, shot an off-balance layup over his much taller opponent with 3.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter to cement the victory for his team.
The Warriors had one more chance to win the game, but Kevin Durant lost his balance coming off a screen and was not able to unleash a heart breaker on the Cavs faithful as time expired.
The Warriors are probably kicking themselves for letting this game get away from them.
They led the Cavaliers 94-80 in the fourth quarter but let the champs back in the game.
LeBron James had his best game in the third quarter, scoring 16 points including four3-pointers. King James finished with 31 points, and Irving scored 25 points.
For the Warriors, Kevin Durant, the superstar who got poached from the Oklahoma Thunder at the end of last season, scored 36 points.
Klay Thompson added 24 points, plus 4 assists, Draymond Green had 16 points, while superstar Stephen Curry had an off night, scoring just 15 points.
The Warriors led for most of this game since the first quarter until James gave the Cavaliers a 105-103 lead in the fourth quarter with a rim-rattling dunk.
The king celebrated the lead by hanging on the rim for several seconds longer than necessary and was lucky the referee did not assess him a penalty for that violation.
Curry responded by draining a three-pointer with 1:14 left to put the Warriors ahead by three. Irving countered with a layup for the Cavs, and Green put the Warriors up 108-107.
The defense was the difference down the stretch for the champs before Irving’s game winner.
The two teams have one game left in the regular season; they will meet on January 16 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, and probably won’t meet again unless both teams make it back to the Finals.
Basketball aficionados are predicting a Cavs-Warriors Finals again this year barring major injuries to key players on both teams.
If the Cavaliers and Warriors meet again in the Finals, it would be the first time in NBA history that two teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences would square up for the championship three times in a row.
By Bayo Akinnagbe