LeBron, Irving rally Cavs
CAVALIERS 109, WARRIORS 108
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