Cava­liers beat War­riors 96-91 to go up 2-1

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY BRIAN MA­HONEY

Cleve­land’s chances of tak­ing a long over­due cham­pi­onship rest largely upon the shoul­ders of LeBron James, and he car­ried the load im­pres­sively Tues­day, scor­ing 40 points to lead the Cava­liers to a 96-91 win against Golden State, and a 2-1 lead in the NBA Fi­nals.

With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irv­ing out in­jured, James takes on even more re­spon­si­bil­ity than is stan­dard for one of the all-time greats, and he and city of Cleve­land — which has not won a ma­jor sports ti­tle for 51 years — now stands two wins from the cham­pi­onship.

Pushed by an ex­pec­tant home crowd and aided by gritty Aus­tralian side­kick Matthew Dellave­dova, James and the Cava­liers sur­vived Golden State’s fu­ri­ous fourth-quar­ter come­back led by league MVP Stephen Curry.

James added 12 re­bounds and eight as­sists in 46 min­utes, his third stel­lar per­for­mance in his fifth straight fi­nals. The Cavs, who won Game 2 at Golden State for their first ever fi­nals win, got their first at Quicken Loans Arena, which shook from start to fin­ish. They’ll have a chance to take a com­mand­ing 3-1 lead in the be­stof- seven se­ries in Game 4 on Thurs­day.

Through three games, James has played 142 of 154 pos­si­ble min­utes, scored 123 points and taken 107 shots.

“I’m just try­ing to do what­ever it takes to help our team win,” he said. “It’s the fi­nals, and it’s what­ever it takes. This is a to­tally dif­fer­ent chal­lenge.”

Cleve­land, which led by 20 points in the third quar­ter, nearly threw the game away. The Cavs looked cer­tain win­ner when they led 92-83 with 51 sec­onds left, but then came a scor­ing flurry by Curry.

The War­riors star found his shoot­ing touch in the fourth quar- ter, scor­ing 17 points. Golden State got a huge lift from re­serve David Lee, but they rode Curry, who made five 3-point­ers — his last with 18.9 sec­onds to pull the War­riors within 94-91.

The vis­it­ing team looked ca­pa­ble of pulling off an amaz­ing come- back af­ter it ap­peared to force a turnover with 17.5 sec­onds to go. How­ever a re­view of the play showed Klay Thomp­son was out of bounds when he made con­tact with the ball that Dellave­dova was hold­ing in his hands.

From the in­bound pass, James was fouled and made two free throws with 16.8 sec­onds left. On Golden State’s last pos­ses­sion, An­dre Iguo­dala ap­peared to get fouled on an er­rant 3-point at­tempt and the Cavs pulled down the re­bound to close out a win that nearly slipped away.

“We’re a young group,” James said, “and like I told the group, ‘It’s OK.’ We haven’t been in a lot of th­ese sit­u­a­tions, if any, with this group.”

Curry fin­ished with 27 points but had three turnovers in the fi­nal minute. Iguo­dala scored 15, Thomp­son, 14 and Lee, who didn’t play in Games 1 or 2, had 11.

De­spite the loss, Curry feels he’s now in a rhythm.

“I found some­thing when

it comes to how I’m go­ing to be able to attack their pick- and- rolls,” Curry said. “I’ll keep that in the mem­ory bank go­ing into Game 4.”

James once again was helped by Dellave­dova, who hounded Curry for three quar­ters, dived on the floor for loose balls and came up with a huge three-point play, fling­ing in a layup as he fell with 2:27 left to put the Cavs up 84-80.

Dellave­dova was treated for cramps and did not ap­pear at the postgame news con­fer­ence. The Cavs said he was on an in­tra­venous drip be­fore be­ing taken to the Cleve­land Clinic for fur­ther pro­ce­dures.

Af­ter two over­time games in Oak­land, Game 3 didn’t have quite the same last-sec­ond drama, but it didn’t lack any in­ten­sity as play­ers were sprawled on the floor fight­ing for loose balls.

The Cavs seemed to take con­trol in the third, build­ing their 20-point lead with a breath­tak­ing 12-0 run that in­cluded 3-point­ers by James and J.R. Smith. Curry ended the spurt with a 3 and the War­riors opened the fi­nal pe­riod with a 13-2 blast to make it 74-68.

Curry, who went just 2 of 15 on 3s in Game 2, hit a cou­ple of ‘didhe-re­ally-just-do-that’ 3s in the fourth be­fore the War­riors ran out of time.

Still, they’re con­fi­dent they can come back again.

“I’m telling you that right now,” Thomp­son said, “if we get our of­fense back, which we will, we’re go­ing to win this se­ries.”

As if Cleve­land didn’t have enough in­juries, Iman Shumpert, one of the team’s top de­fend­ers, hurt his left shoul­der in the first quar­ter. It’s the same shoul­der Shumpert in­jured while he was with New York ear­lier this sea­son, sidelin­ing him for six weeks.

Shumpert re­turned mid­way through the sec­ond quar­ter, knock­ing down a 3-pointer to put the Cavs ahead by seven but he played vir­tu­ally with one arm the rest of the way.

“We can’t af­ford an­other in­jury,” James said, forc­ing a smile.

AP

In this im­age shot with a fish­eye lens, Cleve­land Cava­liers for­ward LeBron James #23 shoots over Golden State War­riors cen­ter Fes­tus Ezeli #31 dur­ing the first half of Game 3 of bas­ket­ball’s NBA Fi­nals in Cleve­land, Ohio, Tues­day, June 9.

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