OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – 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 answer for that question after we win that championship — but signature moments only come for players who are holding the trophy,” said Curry, who also had seven rebounds and four assists before being treated for dehydration.
Curry was spotted rubbing his head and leaning over in a hallway after the game. The Warriors said Curry was receiving fluids in the locker room, watching highlights and should be fine.
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 get in a position they haven’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 championship in 51 years. Game 7, if necessary, would be in Oakland on Friday night.
“I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” said James, who has carried Cleveland as much as he could.
The four-time MVP had 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, slowing down the pace the way only he can. He 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 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 reserve Leandro Barbosa scored 13 points 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 late.
“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 — but few big men — 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.
Iguodala later hit a 3 and then grabbed a rebound, tossing in a left-handed put back while getting fouled by Tristan Thompson. Iguodala strutted back to midcourt, staring at the crowd — just about all of them on their feet through the fourth — before missing the free throw.
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.
“It was an incredible play and I enjoyed watching it from my front-row seat,” Green said.
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-pointer with 1:12 remaining, sending fans into a frenzy and teammates running to give him hugs and high-fives.
“We didn’t let the moment slip,” Curry said.
James said the Cavs are content with the way they defended Curry.
“Was any of them not contested?” James said. “Falling, step-backs off the dribble. I’m OK with that. We’re OK with that. You tip your hat to the best shooter in the league.”
Kerr stuck with the small-ball lineup he used to help the Warriors win Game 4, starting swingman Iguodala over center Andrew Bogut. Blatt replaced 7-footer Timofey Mozgov with the streaky shooting 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. “This is going to be a big one for him because he has all that room. He took over the game down the stretch and was fantastic.”
Both teams lacked size. Neither lacked fight.
Smith made four of his first seven 3-pointers before going cold, but landed his biggest shot when he extended his right forearm and shoulder to plow through Green’s screen, knocking the Warriors forward to the ground. Officials called a flagrant 1 foul on Smith after a review.
Dellavedova dragged Green down going for a rebound in the second quarter, and the officials assessed double fouls after the players got tangled up on the floor. James Jones also grabbed Iguodala with two arms from behind on a layup attempt, which the Warriors argued should’ve been a flagrant foul.
The physical first half ended with Harrison Barnes putting back Curry’s miss for a dunk over James to start a three-point play that put the Warriors up 51-50. James scored or assisted on 16 of Cleveland’s 17 field goals in the half.
“We didn’t turn it over, we were patient,” Klay Thompson said. “And two words: Stephen Curry.”
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