OAKLAND, June 15- Steph Curry stepped up with the NBA Finals teetering on a razor’s edge Sunday and sparked Golden State over Cleveland 104-91, putting the Warriors on the brink of their first title since 1975.
The NBA 2015 Most Valuable Player scored 37 points, 17 of them in the fourth quarter, as Golden State seized a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series. The Warriors could end a 40-year title drought by winning game six Tuesday at Cleveland.
“I hope on Tuesday we can hold that trophy. That’s all I want to do,” said Curry. “We’re confident. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. But we know the sense of urgency of the moment.”
Clinging to an 85-84 lead, the Warriors went on a 19-5 spurt late in the fourth quarter to secure the victory, Curry scoring 12 points in the run. The NBA’s top 3-point shooter sank two impressive shots from beyond the arc in the span and for the game made 13-of-23 from the floor and 7-of-13 from 3-point range.
“That was just Steph taking over the game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He took over the game down the stretch and was fantastic.”
Curry twice answered baskets by Cleveland star LeBron James just before the decisive scoring burst, scoring 17 points in all in the final period.
“Those are plays I’ve been making all year and ones I feel confident in,” Curry said. “Obviously when they go in, it helps keep your confidence high.”
James had 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists to join Magic Johnson as the only NBA players with triple doubles in multiple games of multiple NBA Finals, but his heroics were not enough and Cleveland must win Tuesday to force a seventh game Thursday at Oakland.
“You cope with it by understanding it’s just one game and looking at the opportunity we have on Tuesday to force a game seven,” James said. “We’re going home with a game six and we’ve got enough to win it. I feel confident.”
Asked what gives him confidence in his playmaking skills, James matter-of-factly replied: “I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world. It’s that simple.”
But even James had to tip his hat to Curry catching fire.
“Steph got it going. He hit some huge shots which kept us at bay,” James said. “We needed our best defensive quarter tonight in the fourth quarter and we didn’t get it. We gave up 31 points in the fourth. Some of them were free throws, but a lot of them were them just breaking us down. So we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
– Kerr: best yet to come –
James-led teams in a 2-2 playoff series had not lost a game five in five tries since his Miami squad fell to Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals.
That’s also the last time his team dropped a playoff series after splitting the first four games.
Teams that have won game five of a deadlocked finals have won the title in 20 of 28 tries.
“What I’m excited about is I think we can play a lot better,” Kerr said.
Draymond Green added 16 points and nine rebounds for Golden State, which had 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists from Iguodala. Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to score 13 points.
Tristan Thompson had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which also had 14 points from reserve J.R. Smith, who quickly replaced Russian big man Timofey Mozgov as the Cavaliers matched the smaller but faster Warrior lineup.
“I felt that the best chance for us to stay in the game and to have a chance to win was to play it the way that we played it,” Cavs coach Dave Blatt said. “It’s no disrespect to anyone, certainly not to Timo who has done a great job for us.”
The Warriors could be the first team since Chicago in 1991 to win an NBA Finals without a player who previously appeared in a title series.
And Kerr, who won five NBA titles as a player, could become the first rookie NBA coach to win the title since Pat Riley with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982.