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Cavaliers beat Warriors in Game 3, 96-91; lead Finals 2-1

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After getting smashed through three quarters, Golden State made a valiant but ultimately futile comeback. David Lee finally played in the Finals, and played excellently, but the Cavaliers never relinquished the lead.

Stephen Curry helped the Warriors rally back from 20 down, but couldn't close the deal in Game 3.
Stephen Curry helped the Warriors rally back from 20 down, but couldn't close the deal in Game 3.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It turned out to be another entertaining finish, but like Game 2, LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova finished off a gritty Cavaliers victory.

Dellavedova frustrated Stephen Curry in the first half, with his scrappy play, and scored a career-high 20 points. LeBron was absolutely magnificent once again, with 40 points (on 34 shots), twelve rebounds and eight assists. He stole the ball twice from Curry in the final minute, and nailed the last six free throws for Cleveland. James has put the Cavaliers team completely on his back, and the results are astounding: He has the most points of any individual through three Finals games, and has Cleveland just two wins away from an improbable championship.

The Warriors trailed by twenty points in the second half, and by 17 at the start of the fourth quarter. They were getting nothing against the Cavaliers' stout defense. Harrison Barnes did not have a point in the entire game, going 0-8 and once again faltering against James defensively. Draymond Green made just two shots. Curry had three points at the half.

Golden State was shaken. Steve Kerr needed something, anything to break the offensive funk.

That anything turned out to be David Lee. The same David Lee who had sat on the bench in the regular season, sat on the bench in the postseason, and hadn't played to that point in the NBA Finals. Yet Lee, the consummate and steady professional, came in and played spectacularly. Lee had eleven points and didn't miss a field goal as the Warriors outscored Cleveland by 17 with him on the floor.

Curry also -- finally -- got going. After scoring just one field goal on six attempts in the first half, Curry broke out of his shooting slump, erupting for 24 points in the final two periods, including six three-pointers. He was excellent shooting the ball, and hopefully this bodes well for the Warriors in Game 4. He and Lee either scored or assisted on all of the Warriors' last 31 points.

Golden State cut a twenty-point lead down to one with 2:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Warriors had hope, had life; the Cavaliers snatched it away like Matthew Dellavedova grabbing a loose ball. Dellavedova hit a crazy bank shot, plus a free throw; LeBron hit a monster three to push the lead to seven; and Cleveland ended the game by draining nine straight free three throws. And although Curry got the Warriors back into the game, he had three crucial turnovers down the stretch that each led to critical Cleveland points.

The Warriors got back into the game offensively -- and had a chance to win it -- by going small with David Lee at center, something that worked extremely well in last year's playoff series against the Clippers. No doubt that Kerr pulls out this lineup again going forward; it's arguably the only lineup that has succeeded in significant minutes against this Cavaliers team.

After coming out lethargic on both ends in Game 3, how the Warriors start Game 4 will be immensely important. Will they come out slow, bothered by Cleveland's aggression? Or will they themselves be the aggressors, on offense and defense? Will the Warriors make a significant adjustment, a la Dallas against Miami in the 2011 Finals, that helps them win in Cleveland? Can Golden State find their own J.J. Barea in Game 4?

Their season depends on it.