The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors find themselves in the same situation as last year as they prepare to tip off Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night.
The Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series to stun the defending champs in 2016, using a 112-97 win in Game 5 in Oakland as a catalyst.
The Cavs will be riding the momentum of a hot-shooting, 137-116 triumph in Game 4 at Cleveland on Friday when they attempt to complete another Finals comeback, this one from a 3-0 series hole. Golden State still holds a 3-1 series edge.
Cleveland burned the Warriors on 24-of-45 shooting from 3-point range on Friday. The Cavaliers outscored Golden State 72-33 from beyond the arc.
That was in stark contrast to the long-range dominance the Warriors had established in the first three games, when Golden State outscored Cleveland 138-93 on threes.
The team that has made more 3-pointers has won each of the first four games.
“This is who we are,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said in the wake of the Game 4 win. “No hanging heads. No one down.”
The Warriors dominated their two previous home games in the series, winning 113-91 and 132-113.
It was the first time in NBA Finals history that one team opened with consecutive wins by 19 or more points.
But like last year, when they not only lost Game 5 at home but also the winner-take-all Game 7, the Warriors promise to take the court Monday night taking nothing for granted.
“We’ll just come and play our game, continue to build on what we’ve been doing since Day 1 of training camp,” said Warriors star Kevin Durant, attempting to brush all distractions aside.
“(We’re) looking forward to going out there and having some fun (Monday). That’s the only thing that matters.”
Warriors fans are hoping to share in the fun. No San Francisco Bay Area professional team has won a championship at home since the Oakland Athletics captured the 1974 World Series title next door to Oracle Arena, where Monday’s potential series-ender will be contested.
The Warriors captured the 2015 title in Cleveland with a 105-97 victory in Game 6.
The Cavaliers turned the tables in front of the Golden State fans in Game 7 last year, winning the decider 93-89.
While much of the attention in the “three-match” has been on Durant and Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, it was Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving who was the difference-maker last season, drilling a tiebreaking 3-pointer in the final minute.
Irving also was the driving force in keeping the Cavaliers alive on Friday, burying seven 3-pointers to account for a majority of his game-high 40 points.
Irving (7 of 12), Kevin Love (6 of 8) and J.R. Smith (5 of 9) were all hot from 3-point range in the stunning turnaround.
Meanwhile, Durant (2 of 9) and Stephen Curry (2 of 9) struggled for Golden State at the other end.
Game 6, if necessary, would be played Thursday in Cleveland, with the series potentially returning to Oakland for a second consecutive Game 7 on Sunday.