CLEVELAND, (Reuters) – The Cleveland Cavaliers took another step in their historic comeback attempt with a 115-101 win over the Golden State Warriors yesterday to force a once-unthinkable decisive seventh game to the NBA Finals.
The LeBron James-led Cavaliers, one victory away from becoming the first team to win an NBA championship after falling behind 3-1 in the Finals, will now head to Oakland for Sunday’s deciding game riding a wave of momentum.
Cleveland used an explosive first half in which they led by as many as 22 points to set the tone and never allowed the usually sharp-shooting Warriors to settle into a rhythm or get any closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The Cavaliers built a 24-point lead in the third that looked like it might spell the end for the Warriors but the reigning champions finally closed out the quarter on a 10-0 run to pull within nine points.
But the Cavaliers, who got a game-high 41 points from James, managed to hang on for the win and keep alive their hopes at a maiden NBA championship.
Stephen Curry scored a team-high 30 points for the stunned Warriors but the two-time reigning league Most Valuable Player fouled out of the game late in the fourth quarter and then, in a rare display of frustration, threw his mouthguard into the stands to earn the first ejection of his career.
After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Cavs were left for dead by many impartial observers who expected the top-seeded defending champion Warriors to run away with the series, some even calling for a four-game sweep.
But after splitting the next two games, the resurgent Cavs used a sparkling Game Five performance to shift momentum in their favour and, perhaps, place a seed of doubt in the minds of the Warriors.
The Cavaliers are now just the third team to force a Game Seven after falling behind 3-1, joining the 1951 New York Knicks and the 1966 Los Angeles Lakers.
With the win, the Cavaliers also kept alive their quest for a maiden NBA title that would be Cleveland’s first professional sports championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns of the National Football League.