Irv­ing ex­e­cutes in­stant re­play

Kyrie again de­liv­ers the dag­ger as Cavs rally to edge War­riors in Fi­nals re­match

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By ASSOCIATED PRESS

With another clutch shot, Kyrie Irv­ing took the War­riors on a trip down mem­ory lane.

Irv­ing dropped a short, turn­around jumper over Klay Thomp­son with 3.4 sec­onds left as the Cleve­land Cava­liers ral­lied just the way they did in June’s NBA Fi­nals to de­feat Golden State 109-108 on Christ­mas Day in a mar­quee matchup that more than lived up to the hype.

Down by 14 early in the fourth quar­ter, the Cavs chipped away and then put the ball in the hands of Irv­ing, whose step-back 3-pointer over Stephen Curry on June 19 helped seal Game 7 and gave Cleve­land its first ma­jor pro sports cham­pi­onship since 1964.

This time, Irv­ing went deep in the lane be­fore spin­ning and mak­ing his shot over Thomp­son, one of the league’s best de­fend­ers.

“The kid is spe­cial,” LeBron James said of his team­mate. “It was never in doubt.”

Golden State had one last chance but Kevin Du­rant, who led all scor­ers with 36 points in his first game in the league’s hottest ri­valry, lost his bal­ance com­ing off a screen and couldn’t put up a shot as time ex­pired.

“I was try­ing to make a move,” said Du­rant, who felt he was fouled by Richard Jef­fer­son. “I didn’t fall on my own.”

James scored 31 points with a sea­son-high 13 re­bounds, Irv­ing added 25 points and Kevin Love 20 for the Cavs, who were down 3-1 in the Fi­nals be­fore storm­ing back to stun a War­riors team that won 73 games dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, but came up one win short of cap­tur­ing their sec­ond straight ti­tle.

Thomp­son added 24, Dray­mond Green 16 and Curry 15 — on 4 of 11 shoot­ing — for the War­riors, who had their win­ning streak stopped at seven and fell to 9-1 against East­ern Con­fer­ence teams.

The big­gest present un­der the tree for bas­ket­ball fans this hol­i­day was filled with drama, in­ten­sity and more than a few mo­ments that sparked re­minders of last sea­son’s bril­liant Fi­nals.

“’It lived up to what ev­ery­one wanted it to,” James said.

Irv­ing drained a 3 from the wing that looked a lot like the one he made on June 19, but his bucket over Thomp­son had a higher de­gree of dif­fi­culty.

“That’s a re­ally hard shot,” War­riors coach Steve Kerr said. “I thought Klay played tremen­dous de­fense.

That’s a re­ally hard shot. I thought Klay played tremen­dous de­fense. You don’t do any­thing dif­fer­ent.” Steve Kerr,

You don’t do any­thing dif­fer­ent.”

The War­riors set up a game-win­ning chance for Du­rant, but he stum­bled with pres­sure ap­plied by Jef­fer­son and fell to the floor, watch­ing help­lessly as Cavs fans roared and coach Ty­ronn Lue clapped and screamed.

“We all think we’re fouled on ev­ery play in ev­ery sin­gle game,” Jef­fer­son said. “That’s why I say I know the ref­er­ees have a very hard job.

“I switched to his body. He looked like he lost his bal­ance. He was try­ing to re­gain his bal­ance and as soon as I saw him start to stum­ble, I ran off.”

The teams will meet again on Jan 16 and then not again un­less they make it back to the Fi­nals — a “three-quel” that would be the first in league his­tory.

To re­mind their guests of what hap­pened in June, the Cavs left a door propped open just down the hall­way from Golden State’s locker room where a large photo of James’ game-chang­ing, ca­reer-defin­ing block of An­dre Iguo­dala in Game 7 was on dis­play.

The pic­ture had been doc­tored with a Cavs cham­pi­onship ring taped over James’ left in­dex fin­ger.

If there was any doubt that this game meant more than the other 81 to both squads and fan bases, Green took care of that in the open­ing min­utes. Af­ter be­ing called for his sec­ond per­sonal foul, he stormed off the floor, curs­ing with ev­ery step on his way to the bench.

Green, whose sus­pen­sion from Game 5 of the Fi­nals helped swing the series to Cleve­land, was slapped with a tech­ni­cal and sev­eral of his team­mates came over to calm him down be­fore things got worse.

Grumpy old man

Jef­fer­son still has some hops at 36.

His dunk over Thomp­son in the fourth quar­ter sparked a 14-3 run by the Cavs. Fol­low­ing the play, Jef­fer­son, who missed his first eight shots, was called for a tech­ni­cal for wink­ing at Du­rant.

“I was a lit­tle bit sur­prised by it, but I think they were try­ing to rein it in,” said Jef­fer­son, who was ejected from a game ear­lier this week.

Tip-ins

War­riors: Golden State fell to 11-15 on Christ­mas Day, 3-11 on the road ... Curry’s shoot­ing a ca­reer-low 40 per­cent on 3-point­ers, but Kerr is con­fi­dent he’ ll find his touch.

“The great thing about Steph is he doesn’t worry about it too much,” Kerr said. “He’s got the con­fi­dence of Michael Jor­dan. Very few play­ers I’ve ever seen can miss 10 shots in a row and then make the next one like it’s noth­ing. Steph’s done that through his whole ca­reer.”

Cava­liers: James (301) be­came the third player to sur­pass 300 points on the hol­i­day, join­ing Kobe Bryant (395) and Os­car Robert­son (377) ... Cleve­land has won 10 of 11 ... Irv­ing added 10 as­sists .... James brought the crowd to its feet by blaz­ing across the lane to swat a layup by Zaza Pachu­lia in the first half.

TONY DEJAK / AP

Stephen Curry of the Golden State War­riors is fouled by Cleve­land Cava­liers’ Chan­ning Frye as Kyrie Irv­ing de­fends dur­ing the sec­ond half of their Christ­mas Day clash in Cleve­land. The Cava­liers won 109-108.

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