From tip-off through the end of the second quarter, the opposing clubs rarely opened up a gap wider than four points, but the Cavs stayed on top throughout the game. Golden State’s Stephen Curry scored only three points in the first half and seemed destined to repeat the off-day performance he put on in Game 2. Not content with their five-point lead, Cleveland picked up the pace in the third to stretch it to 17 points by the quarter’s end.
Then, something shifted, and Curry suddenly snapped back to life.
The Warriors went on to score 34 points in the fourth. Curry supplied 17 of those points in the last seven and a half minutes. However, the Cavs—or, more specifically, James—had an answer for every shot. LeBron sealed the deal with two free throws with 16.8 seconds on the clock, ending the game five points the victor.
“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to help our team win,” James told media after the game. He earned 12 rebounds and eight assists on top of his 40 points, though he did see a drop in shot efficiency with 20 missed field goals.
James has switched to an uncharacteristically high-volume style of play to help make up for the losses of NBA All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. So far, LeBron’s played 142 of a possible 154 minutes during these Finals without signs of slowing down—according to USA TODAY Sports, he’s scored more points through three games (123) than anyone in a championship series, averaging 41 points per game.
James was aided by Matthew Dellavedova, who has found his groove in recent games as LeBron’s sidekick. The unlikely star threw in 20 points of his own and played the role of Steph Curry’s pesky defender to great effect. After a game of aggressive play (including a few of his patented loose ball dives), Delly was sent to hospital experiencing severe cramping. He was given an IV and did not take part in post-game interviews.
The Cavs’ combined performance was just enough to withstand Golden State’s comeback bid in the furious final minutes of the fourth quarter. Cleveland Cavaliers Coach David Blatt said a lack of energy toward the end of the game was to blame for creating the opening, but his team played through.
“I didn’t see us quitting on plays and I didn’t see us letting down. A lot of times that’s what happens when you take it out of the net and you’re not scoring it,” he said. “But, man, this is a resilient group. They just don’t give in. If you can bend and not break, you’ve always got a chance. You’ve got a chance.”
Steph Curry offered no excuse for those first three quarters. He ended the game with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists on 7-for-13 three-point shooting and 10-for-20 shooting from the field. Andre Iguodala (15), Klay Thompson (14) and reserve David Lee (11) all made notable contributions to the point total, but the Warriors lacked production until they found their rhythm in the final moments. By then, it was too little, too late.
“For us to win this series, we have to play that way the whole game. We have the depth, we have the talent to do it, whether we’re at home or on the road,” said Curry. “We’ve just got to bottle up what we did in the fourth quarter and bring that for 48 minutes starting in Game 4.”
‘It means everything to get this win for this franchise, for our city, for Cavs fans all over the world.’
‘If we win every game at home we’ll be alright in the series, so that is a start.’
Breaking down a matchup for the ages