Down two stars, James and Co. are two wins from NBA ti­tle af­ter slow­ing down War­riors again.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han

CLEVE­LAND — Ap­par­ently, Kyrie Irv­ing isn’t needed ei­ther.

The Cleve­land Cava­liers keep los­ing All-Stars but keep win­ning the most im­por­tant games in their 45-year his­tory, un­veil­ing a 96-91 victory Tues­day over the Golden State War­riors in Game 3 of the NBA Fi­nals.

LeBron James con­tin­ued to be ef­fec­tive across the board and Matthew Dellave­dova added 20 points as the Cava­liers took a 2-1 se­ries lead. Game 4 is Thurs­day in Cleve­land.

As deliri­ously happy Cava­liers fans left the arena, they chanted, “Two more wins!” If it hap­pened, it would be the Cava­liers’ first ti­tle ever.

There’s at least one stat firmly in their fa­vor: The Game 3 win­ner in a 1-1 Fi­nals has won the se­ries 31 of 37 times (83.8%), ac­cord­ing to Elias Sports Bureau.

The for­mer MVP kept out­play­ing the cur­rent one Tues­day, James fin­ish­ing with 40 points, 12

re­bounds and eight as­sists at Quicken Loans Arena.

Stephen Curry couldn’t find his touch early for Golden State, miss­ing seven of his first eight shots be­fore fin­ish­ing with 27 points.

James has held the Cava­liers to­gether since Irv­ing was lost to­ward the end of Game 1 be­cause of a frac­tured kneecap. Seem­ingly eons ago, Kevin Love was lost in April be­cause of a dis­lo­cated shoul­der.

No prob­lem. James and the Cava­liers keep sur­pris­ing bas­ket­ball fol­low­ers.

“In or­der for us to win, we have to de­fend. Ev­ery­one knows their roles,” said James, who has played 142 of 154 pos­si­ble min­utes this se­ries. “When you have chem­istry, things work well.”

Cleve­land looked like it would win eas­ily, tak­ing a 20point lead late in the third quar­ter, but the War­riors cut it to three as Curry fi­nally awoke and sel­do­mused David Lee had 11 points in 13 min­utes.

Af­ter a care­less turnover by Curry — he threw a be­hind-the-back pass to where he in­cor­rectly thought Dray­mond Green was stand­ing — James an­swered with a three-pointer as the shot clock wound down, giv­ing Cleve­land an 87-80 lead with 1 minute 44 sec­onds left.

James seemed un­usu­ally charged-up by the play. He ran down­court and mim­icked fir­ing a gun, emp­ty­ing the cham­bers and hol­ster­ing it.

“The timely ones are the ones that killed us,” Curry said.

The War­riors were in this predica­ment last month, fall­ing be­hind Mem­phis in the West­ern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals, 2-1, be­fore win­ning the next three games, in­clud­ing two on the road, to end the se­ries.

But Golden State needs more con­sis­tency from Curry and help from oth­ers. Starters Har­ri­son Barnes and Green com­bined for only seven points on twofor-18 shoot­ing.

“I’ve got to find dif­fer­ent ways to get us go­ing,” Curry said. “I like that chal­lenge.”

Cleve­land fans loved plenty in Game 3 and be­gan a “Del-ly, Del-ly” chant when Dellave­dova hit a three­p­ointer and 11-foot floater on con­sec­u­tive third-quar­ter pos­ses­sions. The chant started again when he jumped over the court­side seats and into the crowd while chas­ing a loose ball.

The Cava­liers ap­pre­ci­ate him too, ob­vi­ously.

“The guys love Delly be­cause he just plays with all his heart and he cares first about the team and only about the team,” Cleve­land Coach David Blatt said. “What’s not to love about the guy?

“I tell you what, his big­gest fan is sit­ting home right now, Kyrie Irv­ing. Loves the guy. And he knows why, and we know why.”

Dellave­dova added per­haps the tough­est shot of the game, an off-bal­ance nine-footer he threw off the back­board while get­ting fouled by Curry in the fi­nal min­utes.

The game took a toll on Dellave­dova. He had se­vere cramps and couldn’t make it to the podium to talk to re­porters.

James, for his part, wasn’t just ef­fec­tive as a scorer.

He leaped high in the third quar­ter to get a piece of Klay Thomp­son’s at­tempted floater. Then at the other end, he set up Ti­mofey Moz­gov for an easy dunk.

And was that a smile when he nailed a small step­back floater over Shaun Livingston? It might have been a gri­mace. There was still an en­tire quar­ter to play. And two more vic­to­ries are still needed for James to pull off one of the all-time bas­ket­ball coups.

“This is a great mo­ment and my team­mates need me,” James said. “It’s my job to go out and lead those guys.”

James prob­a­bly said it best af­ter Cleve­land sur­prised Golden State in Game 2: If you’re look­ing for “sexy, cute bas­ket­ball,” you bet­ter not watch the Cava­liers.

But they keep win­ning. Do they ever.

Tony De­jak As­so­ci­ated Press

L eBRON JAMES of the Cava­liers shoots over David Lee of the War­riors.

Paul Sancya As­so­ci­ated Press

STEPHEN CURRY of the War­riors must con­tend with Matthew Dellave­dova, left, and LeBron James of the Cava­liers while go­ing af­ter the ball in sec­ond half.

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