The Golden State Warriors entered the playoffs viewed as an offensive juggernaut and a smart defensive team which — having dominated the stronger Western Conference — should be nearly unstoppable in the NBA finals.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers showed just how wrong that was through the first three quarters on Tuesday night in Cleveland, building a 17-point lead en route to a 96-91 win and a 2-1 series lead.
The Warriors came roaring back in the final period, cutting the lead to just one point on a Stephen Curry three-pointer with less than three minutes to play.
A stumbling floater in the lane and free throw by emergency starter Matthew Dellavedova and a three-pointer by James ran the lead back to seven. Two long-range Curry bombs kept the pressure on until the end, but Golden State couldn’t pull out a win.
“That last minute and a half, we’ve got a lot to learn from,” James said after the game.
James nearly racked up another triple-double for the Cavaliers, scoring 40 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and passing out eight assists. Dellavedova, throwing his body all over the court, added 20 points and scrambling defense on the Warriors guards.
Stephen Curry — rebounding from his worst offensive performance in five years — added six rebounds, six assists and 27 points on efficient shooting for the Warriors. But he was undermined by a 2-18 shooting performance by starting forwards Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.
Game Four will be played in Cleveland on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast on ABC.