CLEVELAND — Stephen Curry nearly shot the Golden State Warriors from way behind into the lead in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors’ comeback fell short and the Cleveland Cavaliers held on for a 96-91 victory Tuesday night and a 2-1 edge in the series.
BOX SCORE: CAVALIERS 96, WARRIORS 91
Golden State trailed by 17 points after three dreadful quarters, but rang up a 36-point fourth to get all the way within one point in the final 3 minutes.
“We became the aggressors, just like the last three minutes of Game 2,” Curry said. “For us to win this series, we have to play that way the whole game.”
Curry struggled early after his dismal Game 2, but had 17 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, making five of his seven 3-pointers.
One of them cut what had been a 20-point deficit to 81-80, and his final three gave the Warriors their last bit of hope when it brought them to 94-91.
They couldn’t pull out the victory but may have found an answer to some of their problems by inserting David Lee into the rotation. Lee, a former All-Star who didn’t even play in the first two games, made all four shots and scored 11 points, including nine in the fourth quarter to help spark the rally.
Coach Steve Kerr said there would be more of Lee in the series.
“My biggest concern was to go out there and play as hard as I can, bring some toughness, and just really be as active as possible and aggressive,” Lee said. “I felt like that’s what we really needed when I got in the game and I just tried to do that to the best of my ability, and some things fell my way.”
The Warriors are down 2-1 in a series for the second time this postseason. They didn’t lose another game in the Western Conference semifinals against Memphis, and will hope their strong finish Tuesday will carry over into Game 4 here on Thursday.
Particularly for Curry, the MVP who shot just 5 of 23 in Game 2, including 2 of 15 from 3-point range. That brought out talk of a slump, questions about the tough defense being played on him by Matthew Dellavedova, and even some concern he was perhaps still hurting or shaken after his scary fall against Houston during the West finals.
But he ended up 10 of 20 in this one, going 7 of 13 behind the arc, and also added six rebounds and six assists.
“It’s obviously good to see a couple shots go in,” Curry said. “I think I found something when it comes to how I’m going to be able to attack their pick-and-rolls and even certain (isolation) situations. I’ll keep that in the memory bank going into Game 4, and hopefully it has a trickle-over effect into the first quarter of the next game.”
The Warriors still have concerns. They averaged an NBA-best 110 points during their 67-win season but are struggling just to crack 90 against the Cavaliers. Starting forward Harrison Barnes missed all eight shots and Draymond Green was only 2 for 10.
Still, they nearly pulled out a comeback that would have rivaled the one against New Orleans in Game 3 of the first round, when the Warriors trailed by 20 entering the fourth quarter but won it in overtime after Curry’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation.
This time, he could only get them close.
“We just couldn’t find our rhythm or we haven’t been able to find our rhythm,” reserve Andre Iguodala said. “Then we had those small spurts where it seems to be going for us, but tonight it was a little too late.”