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NBA: Warriors are a win away

LeBron James

Curry fires 7 of histeam’s 17 3-pt. shot.

CLEVELAND (AFP) – NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry scored 38 points and the Golden State Warriors moved to the brink of back-to-back titles Friday by defeating Cleveland 108-97 in the NBA Finals.

Golden State, which made an NBA Finals record 17 3-point baskets, seized a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and can complete consecutive championship runs with a home victory in game five on Monday.

No team down 3-1 has ever rallied to win the NBA Finals and the Cavaliers’ first home playoff loss in nine starts dimmed their hopes of avenging last year’s finals loss to the Warriors and becoming Cleveland’s first sports champion since 1964.

Curry had struggled with shooting rhythm and foul troubles in the first three games but connected on 11-of-25 from the floor, including 7-of-13 3-point attempts and 9-of-10 free throws, and scored 13 points in the decisive fourth quarter.

Klay Thompson added 25 points and Harrison Barnes contributed 14, each hitting four 3-pointers, and Draymond Green grabbed 12 rebounds to spark the Warriors.

After three blowouts, the finals produced fourth quarter drama at last, with LeBron James and Kevin Love, back after missing game three with a concussion, each scoring four points in a 10-2 run that put the Cavaliers ahead 83-81.

But Golden State responded with a 12-1 run, Barnes opening and closing the critical stretch with 3-pointers to give the Warriors a 93-84 lead while the Cavaliers missed six consecutive shots and went more than six minutes without making a basket.

Kyrie Irving, who led Cleveland with 34 points, sank a layup but Curry answered with a 3-pointer as the tension mounted, so much so that James and Green exchanged words and had to be separated.

Irving added a hoop and, after a fan ran onto the court and was taken off by security, James sank a free throw to pull the Cavs within 96-89.

From there, Cleveland could only trade points to the finish, Curry and Thompson making late free throws to seal the Cavaliers’ fate.

James finished with 25 points and game highs of 13 rebounds and nine assists while Love added 11 points. Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith each had 10 points, all in the first half.

The Warriors, who won an NBA record 73 regular-season games, broke the old finals 3-point mark of 16 set by San Antonio against James-led Miami in game three in 2013.

Love was cleared by doctors to return to the lineup an hour before tipoff after missing game three with a concussion suffered in game two, but was used as a reserve for the first time since 2010.

James sank a 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 61-53 edge early in the third quarter, but the Warriors answered with a 26-12 run to grab their biggest lead to that point at 79-73. Thompson had 10 points in the run and Curry added eight.

Irving scored 16 first-half points and the Cavaliers closed the second quarter on an 8-2 run to grab a 55-50 half-time lead.

In a sellout crowd was incoming Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who formerly guided Bayern Munich and Barcelona. He wore a James jersey.