Talk from the Golden State Warriors about popping champagne corks and celebrating an NBA title on Cleveland's court for the second time in three seasons inspired Kyrie Irving to do something to prevent it.
Irving scored 40 points and LeBron James added 31 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds to power the Cavaliers over Golden State 137-116 Friday, averting what would have been a historic win and NBA Finals sweep for the Warriors.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (L) dribbles past Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (R) during Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Cleveland, Ohio on June 16, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Jay LaPrete
Golden State still lead the best-of-seven title series 3-1 and can claim the trophy at home on Monday. But the loss snapped the Warriors' NBA-record 15-game playoff win streak and denied them the league's first unbeaten playoff run.
"You hear some chatter going on throughout the Warriors locker room in terms of them trying to end it here, and it was another do-or-die game for us, and we had to leave it all out there," Irving said.
"It's part of the game, I understand that. But we knew what we were faced with. Then you add some chatter in there, and that adds some extra motivation.
"And you give us a day in between and we were ready to come out. Especially me, because that taste wouldn't have been the same if we would have lost tonight and they would have celebrated on our home floor. So I'll just leave that at that."
Irving hit 15-of-27 shots from the floor, going 7-of-12 from 3-point range to set the pace for a finals record 24 3-points on 45 attempts.
But it was his extra motivation that caught the notice of James.
"I didn't hear it, but some of the other guys heard it and told me that they wanted to celebrate on our floor once again and they wanted to spray champagne in our locker rooms," James said.
"I think it came from Draymond (Green, a Warriors forward), which is OK, that's Dray anyway."
James shrugged off unbeaten runs and celebration talk and just kept his mind on the moment.
"I didn't stress anything besides just live in the moment," he said. "We have a great opportunity to give ourself another opportunity to keep going. We came out and this was as close to a 48-minute game as we played in the post-season. It was big for us."
Irving said he scans social media for such slights as premature celebration talk.
"We're in the finals. Everything is accessible. Social media is everywhere. It raises the bar, especially the attention that goes on with it," Irving said.
"So we see everything. I'll be sitting up here lying saying that I didn't see it. But I relish in that challenge. I know my teammates do as well. Definitely heard the chatter."
Curry said the Warriors will be ready to answer the Cavaliers raising their game.
"We got to find our edge and respond," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. "So all that chatter and stuff is neither here nor there. It's whatever you need to get yourself ready to play."
Green warned that extra motivation is little help at this stage.
"Winning a championship is enough motivation. All the antics and stuff don't really matter. That's water under the bridge," Green said. "If you need extra motivation to go close out in five, you’re screwed, because that won't be enough motivation."
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