The ratings numbers from Friday night’s game are in …and what’s great for the league doesn’t bode well for Golden State.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Warriors fans maybe shouldn’t put that champagne on ice just yet.

Friday night’s Game 4 of the N.B.A. Finals averaged a total live audience of 19 million viewers on ABC. The total live viewership for the game, including streaming, was up 15% from 2016.

In the opening minutes of the match, as the Warriors attempted to close out a historic 16-0 playoff run, the Cavaliers got the hot shooting hand. This buffeted by four of the Warriors starters getting two or more fouls under their elastic waistbands in the game’s first 12 minutes all but assured Cleveland was not going to be closed out at home.

Each of the first four finals games has gotten progressively higher ratings. The games are enjoying an average aggregate audience of 19.8 million, up 12% from last year to make it the most watched series since 1998.

In a mostly re-run heavy summer schedule ABC won the Friday ratings in a walk, even Jimmy Kimmel’s pre-show drew 9 million viewers and a 2.8 share in the 18-49 demographic. The next closest to compete was Dateline (NBC) with a .9 share.

Last year, the Warriors were also up 3-1 going into a pivotal game 5.

Draymond Green, a presumptive candidate for the N.B.A. Finals’ MVP to that point, was suspended for Game 5 in Oakland after he was assessed a flagrant foul 1 by the league for his actions in Game 4.

With less than three minutes to go during that game, Green and LeBron James got into a skirmish around midcourt. The two forwards did their do-si-doing and Green eventually fell to the hardwood. James intentionally stepped over Green in a power move and Green swung his arm toward James’s groin. Once up, the pair continued to engage in their version of the African Anteater ritual bumping and grinding under the rim.

The next day, the league assessed James with a technical foul for his part in physically taunting Green. No further punishment was levied against James. The commissioner also fined Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue $25,000 for his criticism of the officiating after his team’s Game 4 loss.

The Warriors never got back on track even with Green returning in game six and they lost in seven on their home court. James, in just his second season after returning to Cleveland, gave his hometown its first title of any kind besides best viral fake tourism video in a half-century:

For 2017’s game 5, the Warriors will be fully staffed with their quartet of All-Stars. Green, series MVP thus far Kevin Durant, a fiery Steph Curry and Klay Thompson who seems to be finding his stroke once more after relying heavily upon his defense to stay on the floor. But Cleveland also comes off its best game of the year, a 137-point shellacking where they shot over 60 percent from the floor and sunk a NBA Finals record 24 three-pointers.

The Warriors are approaching Monday night’s game with a Game 7 closeout mentality. They know a loss tonight would likely lead to an unprecedented seven-game series that once saw them up 3-0.

“You don’t want to extend the series at all,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a challenge to close out. Closeout games are always the hardest. We all have a mentality of a Game 7. When you’re at home, the Larry O’Brien trophy is so close, you got to embrace the challenge and close it out.”

…Sounds like a man who knows his team is going to do battle with the suddenly formidable LeBron and co. along with the league, the refs—and their own high ratings.

Andrew J. Pridgen helps run sister site Goner Party and is the author of the novella “Burgundy Upholstery Sky”. His first full-length novel will be released in late-2017.

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