CLEVELAND, Ohio — The lead in the NBA Finals belongs to Cleveland, though some momentum may be with the Warriors.
So LeBron James celebrated the victory but fretted the finish after Golden State finally looked like the NBA’s best team in a fourth-quarter flurry, before the Cavaliers held on for a 96-91 victory and a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
That left James saying afterward the Cavs needed to figure some things out, while the Warriors seemed to think they already had.
“We hold them to 55 points for three quarters and we allowed them to break off with 36. That’s not satisfying at all,” James said of the final period.
“But the best teacher in life is experience. We experienced it tonight. We’re going to watch a lot of film tomorrow on ways we can get better, close out games the best way, and we’ll be ready for Game 4.”
Holding on took everything the Cavs had, especially from Matthew Dellavedova, who required treatment at a hospital for severe cramping.
And even though Cleveland did, Golden State’s confidence wasn’t dented.
“We’ve just got to bottle up what we did the fourth quarter and bring that for 48 minutes starting in Game 4,” said Stephen Curry, who scored 17 of his 27 points in the fourth.
Other things to watch:
DELLAVEDOVA’S DETERMINATION: Shortly after James praised his scrappy point guard for his effort across 38 ½ minutes, an NBA official announced that Dellavedova wouldn’t make it to his interview because of his cramping. The Cavaliers plan to update his condition Wednesday.
LEBRON’S LOAD: James has been so good in this series that he scored 40 points and his scoring average actually dropped to 41 per game. He has two 40-point games in the series, two shy of the NBA Finals record held by Jerry West (1969) and Michael Jordan (1993).
“He understands the moment,” coach David Blatt said. “He understands the situation and he is a big, big, big-time player. He can get it done.”
NO DNP FOR D-LEE: David Lee didn’t play in Games 1 or 2, but apparently has already locked up a spot in Game 4.
Lee got his first action of the series Tuesday and was one of the catalysts in the Warriors’ comeback. He scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, helped Golden State with its rebounding problem and most importantly helped create some space for Curry with his play in the pick-and-roll.
“I think we found something there with David Lee that’s working for us,” Andre Iguodala said. “So he’s going to get some more minutes, I would like to think, going forward, and then other guys will see how effective he is and they’ll do the same.”
Iguodala was right. Coach Steve Kerr said there would be more of Lee in the series.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: The Warriors pointed to the Western Conference semifinals against Memphis in saying their confidence wasn’t shaken by their 2-1 deficit.
They were down 2-1 in that series against another team that plays rugged defense, then didn’t lose another game in the series.
“This reminds me so much of the Memphis series,” guard Klay Thompson said. “Hopefully it will be the same result. We haven’t even had a good game offensively these three games and we’re still in every game.”