OAKLAND, Calif. – Stephen Curry came off a screen, dribbled behind his back and crossed over Matthew Dellavedova. He stepped back and swished a 3-pointer, then pounded his chest and pointed to the roof, seemingly controlling the sellout crowd of 19,596 on his fingertips.
One more win, and the MVP will really have a moment to celebrate.
Curry made seven 3-pointers and scored 37 points, and the Warriors withstood another brilliant performance from LeBron James to outlast the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-91 on Sunday night for a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals.
“It was a fun moment, but it will only mean something – and I’ll probably have a better for that question after we win that championship – but signature moments only come for players who are holding the trophy,” said Curry, who added seven rebounds and four assists.
With a sellout crowd rocking and roaring in their golden-yellow shirts, Curry and his teammates took control of the game – and possibly the series – in the final minutes. Curry connected inside and out – sometimes way out – to help the Warriors pull away and in a position the franchise hasn’t been in 40 years.
The Warriors will try to win their first title since 1975 on Tuesday night in Cleveland, which hasn’t won a major sports chapionship in 51 years. Game 7, if necessary, would be in Oakland on Friday night.
James carried Cleveland as far as he could. The four-time MVP had 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, slowing down the pace the way only he can.
James made 15 of 34 shots in 44 minutes.
It was James’ second triple-double of this series. But the depleted Cavs, without injured starters Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, tired again late with a rotation that has gone just seven or eight deep.
“He has the ball in his hands a lot. Stick with the program. Don’t get discouraged if he makes shots. He’s going to,” Curry said of James. “Over the course of 48 minutes, we hope we wear him down enough to make it very tough on him.”
Draymond Green had 16 points and nine rebounds, Andre Iguodala added 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Leandro Barbosa scored 13 points in reserve for the deep and talented Warriors.
Tristan Thompson tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds, and J.R. Smith scored all 14 of his points in the first half for Cleveland, which shot 39.5 percent and had no answer for Curry in the closing minutes.
“Not a lot you can do, honestly. He made some terrific shots,” Cavs coach David Blatt said.
Under the current 2-2-1-1-1 schedule format, the winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series has won the title 12 of 14 times. But nobody can feel too comfortable after this one.
There were 20 lead changes and 10 ties in a game that featured nearly as many bruises as baskets and the league’s two biggest attractions trading thrilling scores.
James made a 34-footer with the shot clock about to expire midway through the fourth to cut the Warriors’ lead to 80-79. Curry answered with a step-back 3-pointer and Klay Thompson, who scored 12, followed with another 3-pointer.
Iguodala later hit a 3 and then grabbed a rebound, tossing in a left-handed putback while getting fouled by Thompson.
Curry added a cutting layup, then lost Dellavedova off the dribble and stepped back for a 3 that gave Golden State a 96-86 lead with 2:44 left.
James hit a 3-pointer, and the Cavs began fouling Iguodala – a sub-par free-throw shooter. But Curry never let the game get out of his hands, connecting on another 3 with 1:12 left that had him pounding his chest and pointing to the sky.
“We didn’t let the moment slip,” Curry said.
Kerr stuck with the small-ball lineup he used to win Game 4, starting swingman Iguodala over center Andrew Bogut. Cavs coach David Blatt replaced 7-footer Timofey Mozgov with guard Smith – sliding James to center – after Cleveland fell behind 8-2 in the opening minutes.
“I thought from the very beginning when they went small, had their shooters out there, I thought this is Steph’s night,” Kerr said.
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