NBA

The city that hadn’t seen a championship-level victory in 18 years oohed, ahhed and gasped. But LeBron James can make even Cleveland sports fans breathe easy.

The Cavaliers dominated three quarters, then withstood another Warriors comeback attempt to win 96-91 Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. And this injury-ravaged underdog suddenly has a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

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James made sure of it. His run of jaw-dropping stat lines in this series continued, as he posted 40 points (on 14-for-34 shooting), 12 rebounds and eight assists. And he came up biggest as the game started

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falling apart for the Cavaliers, even after an injury scare of his own. James had eight points in the fourth quarter, including a crucial 3-pointer with 1 minute, 44 seconds left that grew the Cavs’ lead to seven. He also picked off a pass with 51 seconds, drawing a foul and making both free throws.

James pointed to his temple after that play. And the Cavaliers appear to be in the Warriors’ heads.

Matthew Dellavedova led that push. Replacing Kyrie Irving as the Cavs’ starting point guard again, he shut down NBA MVP Stephen Curry for the second game in a row. Curry scored three points in the entire first half and didn’t start finding a rhythm until the fourth quarter, when Dellavedova made clutch free throws and defensive plays to help close out the game and finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.

The Warriors had to turn deep on their bench, to former All-Star David Lee, who hadn’t even played in the first two games, to help build their run. Lee came through with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting and four rebounds, all in the fourth quarter. But he and Curry, who had 22 points in the final 15 minutes of game time, offered too little, too late.

For most of the game, veteran sixth man Andre Iguodala, who had 15 points and five rebounds, was the only Warrior in any sort of rhythm. This has been a recurring problem, lackadaisical efforts leading to potent comeback attempts. And while the Warriors cut the Cavs’ lead to one, they never led.

James made sure of that. And Cleveland watched the home team win a championship-level game for the first time since Game 4 of the 1997 World Series.

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