Warriors wake up in dominant fourth quarter to beat Cavs

CLEVELAND — The Warriors have made their mark in the third quarter this season but waited until the fourth to jostle control away from the shorthanded Cavaliers Thursday night at Rocket Mortgage Arena.

Playing against a Cleveland team missing four of its top six scorers, Golden State trailed by 10 entering the final period but was able to pull away for a 104-89 win. The Warriors held Cleveland to eight points in the fourth quarter, a mark exceeded individually by Stephen Curry and Damion Lee.

Curry and Lee fueled a fourth-quarter burst that was driven by Golden State’s suffocating defense, providing the separation the Warriors were seeking all night. The two guards combined for 29 points — 20 by Curry, nine from Lee — in the fourth quarter as the Warriors erased an 81-71 deficit entering the final period.

“We got our butts kicked for three quarters,” coach Steve Kerr said afterward.

A conversation in the huddle prior to the fourth quarter was the inspiration for the 36-8 final period. Curry started the quarter with consecutive 3-pointers that kicked off his second 20-plus point quarter of the season.

“We talked about winning the 12 minutes,” Kerr said. “Obviously with Steph on the floor, you always have a chance. … When he made those two 3s, immediately it was a game again. … Just a hell of a fourth quarter.”

Curry finished with a game-high 40 points, complemented by Draymond Green’s season-high 14 assists.

But the majority of the game was dominated by a patchwork of Cavaliers.

The Warriors used two runs with big contributions off the bench to eke out a win.

It was Lee and Curry who stepped up in the fourth quarter, but Gary Payton II and Nemanja Bjelica provided the spark to pull the Warriors out of an initial 10-0 hole.

In one of his best games since joining the Warriors, Bjelica scored 14 first-half points, and Golden State outscored Cleveland by 22 with him on the floor, bested only by Lee’s plus-30. Kerr said Bjelica “kept us afloat” in the first half.

The tall ball Cavs exposed some flaws in the small ball Warriors, even in a losing effort.

Cleveland outrebounded the Warriors 56-38 and by 13-5 on the offensive glass.

“I thought Cleveland was fantastic on the glass, beating us to every loose ball,” Kerr said.

Golden State fell into holes of 10-0 and 22-9, only regaining momentum enough to briefly pull ahead before allowing the Cavs to climb back and take a 54-51 lead into halftime.

Cleveland was rarely missing and cleaning up the glass when it did. The Warriors were being nearly doubled up on the board, 31-16, at halftime. Cleveland got second chances on seven possessions and converted them into 12 points.

The Cavs shot 52.6% from the field in the first quarter but only went downhill from there, culminating in a fourth quarter in which they were limited to 2-of-14 (14.3%) and outscored by 28 points.

It was only the third time in franchise history the Warriors have outscored an opponent by at least 28 points in a quarter. The Cavs’ eight-point output was the lowest of any team in the NBA during any quarter this season.

Simply, they started missing, stopped getting the rebound when they did, and that allowed the Warriors to take control, at last, in the final quarter.

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