CLEVELAND — LeBron James wasn’t going to watch the Warriors celebrate a championship on the Cavaliers’ home court for the second straight year.
The Cavaliers erased a 3-1 deficit and forced a winner-take-all Game 7 after James carried them to a 115-101 victory over the Warriors in Game 6 last night inside a deafening Quicken Loans Arena.
James scored 41 points for the second straight game, had 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks in one of the best all-around performances you will see in one of the biggest moments in his career. The Cavaliers, who led by 24 in the second half, evened the series at three games apiece.
Now after the best regular season in NBA history, the Warriors are dangerously close to suffering the worst Finals’ collapse ever. Thirty-two teams led the NBA Finals 3-1 before this series and all 32 teams won the championship. History could be made by both teams Sunday night in Oakland.
Two-time MVP Stephen Curry scored 30 for the Warriors, but fouled out with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter and was ejected from the game after throwing his mouthpiece into the stands. Curry was irate, believing he didn’t foul James on that play. Before leaving the court, Curry went over and apologized to the fans he hit.
The Warriors followed up last year’s championship season by going 73-9 in the regular season. They have lost eight times in the postseason. A ninth would be devastating. But it probably would be the sweetest victory for James, a two-time champion. He returned to Cleveland to help bring the city its first professional sports championship since 1964.
James was nothing short of brilliant. He scored 18 consecutive points for Cleveland during one second-half stretch and was responsible for 24 of the Cavs’ first 25 points in the fourth quarter. He also swatted Curry’s layup in the fourth and then let him hear it.
Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Tristan Thompson had 15 points and 16 rebounds.
Klay Thompson scored 25 for Golden State. Draymond Green, who felt he let his team down by being suspended for Game 5, was looking to make amends. He had eight points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
The Warriors still have home court, but you have to wonder if their confidence is shot and how much they have left.
There have been reports and rumblings that Curry is playing with knee and shoulder issues and may require some type of surgery after this is over. Andre Iguodala had lower back stiffness that limited him throughout the game. The Warriors lost starting center Andrew Bogut for the series in Game 5 with bone bruises in his left knee.
It was the one-year anniversary that the Warriors won the championship in Cleveland in Game 6. Before the game Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Golden State celebrating the title in their building “left a bitter taste in our mouth.”
The Cavaliers definitely had a “Not in our house” mentality. They jumped all over the Warriors from the beginning and led by 22 late in the first quarter. It was 31-11 after one.
They were up, 24 in the third and 17 with under 2:15 remaining in the third. But the Warriors were only down 80-71 at the start of the fourth.
They cut it to 84-76 after a Curry three and had a chance to inch closer. But a Curry layup rimmed out, and James scored on the other end to put Cleveland back up by 10.
Following Leandro Barbosa’s three-pointer that made it 86-79, James hit an off-balanced shot late in the possession, and then converted a Golden State turnover into a layup. James scored the Cavaliers’ first 10 points and gave the Cavs’ a 90-79 lead with 7:00 to go.
A little later, Curry got whistled for the foul and lost his cool.
The Warriors may have lost more than that.