Cleveland: LeBron James delivered one of his greatest performances Thursday, scoring 41 points to power the Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State 115-101 and force a one-game showdown for the NBA title.
James, who made 16 of 27 shots from the floor, added 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots as the Cavaliers leveled the best-of-seven NBA Finals at 3-3, setting up a dramatic seventh-game spectacle Sunday at Oakland, California.
"We've been able to beat a great team two straight games to force a game seven. I can't wait," James said. "I'm going to give everything I've got in game seven."
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James scored 18 consecutive Cavaliers points over the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, almost single-handedly holding off a Warriors rally with aggressive play.
One game from delivering long-suffering Cleveland fans their first major sports crown since 1964, the Cavaliers are trying to complete the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history by becoming the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit for the crown.
"Records are made to be broken," James said. "We gave it our all tonight and we were able to come away with the victory."
Only twice before in NBA Finals history has a team down 3-1 even forced a seventh game, the most recent half a century ago by the Los Angeles Lakers and the first by the 1951 New York Knicks.
Cleveland's long odds aren't yet behind them. Road teams have won only three times in 18 NBA Finals' seventh games.
James, the richest US athlete with $77.2 million in revenue last year, sparked the Cavaliers with slam dunks, driving layups, timely steals, aggressive defending and exciting shot blocks, notably rejecting Golden State star Stephen Curry inside late in the game and trash talking him over his futility.
Frustrated Curry, the NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring leader, led the Warriors with 30 points but was ejected for the first time in his career, fouling out for the first time since 2013 then hurling his mouthpiece into the crowd in anger to earn banishment to the locker room.
Warrior forward Draymond Green, just back from a one-game ban, had to be restrained by coach Steve Kerr in the dying minutes as he argued with a referee over a foul call.
With a chance to win a title, the Warriors made a historic nightmare start, the fewest points in the first quarter of an NBA Finals game -- or any Golden State game -- since the shot-clock era began in 1955.
Cleveland overwhelmed Golden State at the start, jumping ahead 13-2 and 31-9 before settling for the second-largest first quarter lead in NBA Finals history at 31-11.
The Warriors never came within seven points after that.
Published Date: Jun 17, 2016 10:03 am | Updated Date: Jun 17, 2016 10:03 am