LeBron James compiled 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving scored 30 points in the Cavaliers’ resounding 120-90 victory against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Cleveland’s first victory in the series.
The Cavaliers ended a seven-game losing streak to the Warriors that dated back to last year’s Finals. Golden State still holds a 2-1 lead in the series with Game 4 on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Harrison Barnes scored 18 points for Golden State on a night when the Splash Brothers again struggled. Stephen Curry scored 19 points and Klay Thompson scored 10, but they combined to shoot 4-for-16 from 3-point range.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue started Richard Jefferson at small forward in place of Kevin Love, who sat out due to a concussion. James shifted into Love’s spot at power forward, and the Cavs looked like a completely different team than the one that was crushed by a total of 48 points in the first two games in Oakland.
Cleveland center Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 13 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, while James handled Warriors power forward Draymond Green better than anyone else has in this series.
Curry and Thompson went scoreless in the first quarter as the Warriors fell behind by 20 on another off shooting night from the Golden State backcourt.
James all but guaranteed a victory after calling Wednesday a “must-win” game and a “do-or-die” situation as no NBA team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit. Then he went out and played like it.
James bear-crawled across the court chasing after a loose ball, then soared high for a lob dunk when his head was even with the backboard. He even swatted away a Curry shot during a dead ball in the second half to deliver a subtle message to the Warriors.
Irving, likewise, responded with arguably his best performance of the series. James took over some of the ball-handling, freeing up Irving to focus more on scoring at times, though the point guard still finished with eight assists.
The Cavs were better with two stars instead of three, leaving a dilemma if Love is cleared before Friday. Irving scored 16 points in the first quarter and the Cavs raced out to a 33-13 lead while Curry’s shooting problems continued. Curry is shooting 44 percent in this series, including 10-for-25 from 3-point range.
Thompson played most of the night hobbled on a sore leg. He sustained a thigh contusion in the first quarter after he was hit on a screen from Timofey Mozgov. Thompson retreated to the locker room temporarily before returning.
Green finished with six points, seven rebounds and seven assists on 2-of-8 shooting. He scored 28 points on Sunday in the Warriors’ Game 2 victory.
NOTES: Warriors coach Steve Kerr extended his condolences to the family of Sean Rooks, who died Tuesday. Kerr and Rooks were college teammates at Arizona. “He was a gentle giant,” Kerr said. “He always had a smile on his face, 6-11, imposing and yet kind of had the heart of a teddy bear. I’m devastated for his family, especially his kids.” … K.C. Jones and Jerry Sloan were named co-recipients of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement award prior to Game 3. Jones won eight championships as a player, two as an assistant coach and four as a head coach. He also won two NCAA titles at the University of San Francisco and won a gold medal in 1956. Sloan guided the Utah Jazz to 19 playoff appearances, 16 consecutive winning seasons, eight division titles and three 60-win seasons. He still holds the record for most consecutive seasons (23) as a head coach with one NBA team. … Vince Carter was named the Twyman-Stokes teammate of the year Wednesday as voted on by NBA players.