It was another barn-burner tonight inside Quicken Loans Arena for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, but the Cleveland Cavaliers somehow managed to fend off a furious comeback and edge out a 96-91 win to take a 2-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors.
LeBron James was absolutely magnificent once again and just narrowly missed his second straight triple-double with a mind-boggling 40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, four steals, and two blocks. As brilliant as James was, it was Matthew Dellavedova who poured in a career-best 20 points and pestered the Warriors relentlessly on both sides of the floor from start to finish. With the Cavs clinging to a three-point lead in the fourth, he also found LeBron for this beautiful alley-oop jam.
Coming off the worst performance of his career in Game 2, Steph Curry struggled mightily again from the field to start the game, thanks primarily to the general nuisance that is Dellavedova, who along with James Jones combined to outscore the Splash Brothers 12-9 during the first half.
That rocky start left Steve Kerr scrambling for answers, so much so that he turned to little-used reserve forward David Lee to try and give the Warriors a spark off the bench. Lee proceeded to make all of his field goal attempts en route to 11 points while boasting a team-high plus-17 net rating. The Dubs also got some sorely-needed assistance from Andre Iguodala when not much else was going right in the first half. He led all Warriors at the midway mark with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including this nasty breakaway jam.
Klay Thompson struggled following a solid start finishing with just 14 points on 6-of-16 from the field, including 2-of-7 from downtown. Curry, however, finally came back to life after scoring just three total points in the first half and finished with 27 points on 10-of-20 from the field and 7-of-13 from behind-the-arc.
The Cavs appeared to have the game all wrapped up as they sprinted out to a 20-point lead in the third quarter, but Curry and the Warriors finally showed a sense of urgency and staged a late rally to cut the deficit to nine after going on an 8-0 run. The Cavs didn’t help their own cause much by committing 14 total turnovers.
Curry would knock down clutch three after clutch three to keep the game in reach but missed a key shot on a botched Cleveland in-bounds play that resulted in a wide-open look at the top of the key. From there on out, the Dubs played the fouling game but couldn’t quite get it done.
After dropping two straight games and relinquishing home-court advantage, the Warriors now head into a crucial Game 4 Thursday back in The Q. They found themselves in a similar situation against the Grizzlies back in the Western Conference semifinal round, but what’s worrisome is just how utterly listless and disengaged they appeared at times tonight. They’ll need a much more balanced attack if they want any chance of winning this series, and that means more meaningful contributions from Draymond Green, who was 2-of-10,including 1-of-4 from three, and Harrison Barnes, who put up a giant goose egg. Both Green and Barnes were minus-14 for the night.
LeBron, on the other hand, is just two wins away from a storybook ending that would bring the city of Cleveland its first professional sports championship in more than 50 years.