LeBron, Irv­ing rally Cavs

CAVA­LIERS 109, WAR­RIORS 108

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

cleve­land» Six months later, the Cava­liers came back on the War­riors again.

Kyrie Irv­ing dropped a fade­away jumper over Klay Thomp­son with 3.4 sec­onds left and Cleve­land ral­lied just the way it did in his­toric fash­ion last June in the NBA Fi­nals, beat­ing Golden State 109-108 on Sun­day.

The Cavs trailed 94-80 early in the fourth quar­ter be­fore ral­ly­ing be­fore a rowdy Christ­mas crowd. And as was the case in the Fi­nals, it was Irv­ing who made the big­gest bas­ket.

Golden State had one last chance, but Kevin Du­rant lost his bal­ance com­ing off a screen and couldn’t get off a shot as time ex­pired.

LeBron James had 31 points, and Irv­ing added 25 for the Cavs. They were down 3-1 in the Fi­nals be­fore win­ning three straight and the cham­pi­onship — the first for a Cleve­land team since 1964.

Du­rant had 36 points in his first ap­pear­ance in the league’s hottest ri­valry, and Thomp­son had 24. The War­riors had their seven-game win­ning streak stopped.

The Cavs couldn’t quite catch the War­riors un­til James gave Cleve­land a 105103 lead — its first since the open­ing quar­ter — with a mon­strous dunk that he cel­e­brated by swing­ing on the rim like a kid at re­cess.

Stephen Curry’s 3-pointer with 1:14 left put the War­riors up by three, but Irv­ing scored on a layup and Cleve­land shut down Golden State on the de­fen­sive end, forc­ing a 24-se­cond vi­o­la­tion.

Following a time­out, Irv­ing drib­bled deep into the lane and hit his off-bal­ance shot over Thomp­son.

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

The teams will meet again 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.

“Just to get back here and for them to get back to our place, a lot of things have to go right,” War­riors coach Steve Kerr said.

The Cavs were play­ing their third game with­out start­ing guard J.R. Smith, who will miss three months af­ter un­der­go­ing surgery on a bro­ken right thumb.

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.

The Cleve­land Cava­liers’ LeBron James dunks over the Golden State War­riors’ Kevin Du­rant on Sun­day in Cleve­land. James scored 31 points as the Cavs won 109-108. Ja­son Miller, Getty Images

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