NBA Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers wallop Golden State Warriors 120-90 to pull a game back

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) goes for the basket as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (centre) defends.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) goes for the basket as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (centre) defends. PHOTO: EPA

CLEVELAND (AFP) - LeBron James scored 32 points and Kyrie Irving added 30, powering the Cleveland Cavaliers over defending champions Golden State Warriors 120-90 on Wednesday to lift them back into contention in the NBA Finals.

Despite the blowout loss, the Warriors remain ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 on Friday at Cleveland and Game 5 back in Oakland on Monday.

"We've got to have the same effort on Friday," James said.

Only three teams in 69 prior NBA Finals have rallied from 2-0 down to win the title, but no team trailing 3-0 has ever won an NBA play-off series.

Playing a crucial game without forward Kevin Love, sidelined by a concussion suffered in Game 2 on Sunday, the Cavaliers were more physical and aggressive than before, taking full advantage of greater mobility by shifting James to power forward.

"I never got deterred," James said. "I was able to get to the rim and I never stopped working."

The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, in his sixth consecutive finals, added 11 rebounds and six assists while Irving, who only had 10 points in Game 2, hit 16 points in the opening quarter, had eight assists and the Cavaliers used smothering defence to ignite a fast-paced attack.

"It started defensively," James said. "We started playing our game finally. We still can be better."

J.R. Smith added 20 points while Tristan Thompson contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who improved to 8-0 at home in the play-offs and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Warriors.

NBA Most Valuable Player and season scoring leader Stephen Curry managed only two points in the first half and finished with 19, while Harrison Barnes added 18 points and Klay Thompson contributed 10.

Golden State, which won a record 73 games this season, lost the third game of a play-off series for the fifth consecutive time, falling to 3-5 on the road in this year's play-offs.

Cleveland have not celebrated a team sports champion since the 1964 NFL Browns.

The Cavaliers led 51-43 entering the second half despite shooting only six-of-27 from the floor in the second quarter as the Warriors went only two-of-14 from three-point range.

The Cavaliers began the third quarter with a 19-5 run, James scoring eight points to power Cleveland to a 70-48 advantage and the Cavs owned a 89-69 edge entering the fourth quarter and pulled away to the end, never trailing on the night.

Irving sizzled early, hitting seven-of-nine shots from the floor in the first period to spark the Cavaliers to a 33-13 lead.

Barnes powered a Warriors rally by scoring 10 points in a 14-3 run that pulled Golden State within 36-27.