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Warriors vs. Cavaliers 2016 final score: Cleveland breathes life into NBA Finals with 120-90 win

The Cavaliers came alive in a Game 3 smackdown of the Warriors on Wednesday night.

The NBA Finals needed some intrigue and the Cleveland Cavaliers have given it to us with a 120-90 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 on Wednesday night. A series that seemed on the brink of getting out of hand took a hard turn in a new direction with the move to Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs breathed new life into their championship aspirations with a big-time win.

LeBron James said before Game 3 that it was a must-win for Cleveland, which was an unsurprising cliche but not really an exaggeration. No team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, let alone against an opponent that won 73 regular season games with absurd shooting and suffocating defense. The Cavaliers needed to win Wednesday night if they wanted to make this a competitive series.

And not only did Cleveland do that, it blew out the Warriors in a manner that puts this series in a whole new light. While Golden State is undeniably still heavily favored with a 2-1 series lead, the talk of a sweep needs to be tabled. The Cavs are officially back in this, and they did it by whooping the Warriors.

Cleveland jumped out to a 9-0 lead in Game 3, then pushed it out to 33-16 by the end of the first quarter. Golden State punched back from there to cut the margin to eight points by halftime, but the Cavs responded with a 38-26 third quarter that showed there would be no second-half stumble.

James led all scorers with 32 points on 14-of-26 shooting -- an impressive turnaround after starting 5-of-14 from the floor. He also added 11 rebounds and six assists, although the five turnovers continue a trend as James now has 16 giveaways in three games. Kyrie Irving also played well, especially in the first half, and finished with 30 points on 12-of-25 shooting and eight assists. J.R. Smith (20 points) and Tristan Thompson (14 points, 13 rebounds) rounded out the big nights for Cleveland.

The Warriors, meanwhile, got relatively quiet nights from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for just 29 points on 10-of-26 shooting. Draymond Green had just six points on 2-of-8 shooting. Curry led Golden State with 19 points and Harrison Barnes scored 18 in a turnover-filled performance for the team.

Now the Cavs are down 2-1 to the Warriors in the series and will have a chance to tie things up in Game 4 on Friday night. Golden State may still be in the driver's seat, but it's safe to say that we have a series in Cleveland.

Three more things from Game 3 of the Finals:

A much different start

This was the first time in the series when we could fairly say Cleveland put its best foot forward. In Game 2, the Cavaliers led by two points after the opening period, but their actual advantage on the floor felt tenuous at best. Over the next three quarters, the Warriors put on a clinic by outscoring their opponents, 91-56, to take the 2-0 series lead. It's remarkable what a difference it makes playing a team like that once you're really able to build some confidence and a sizable lead. Kyrie had it going early, then LeBron did late, and all along the defense was involved. That's a stark contrast from the first two games.

LeBron finally found his groove

One of the early themes in this series was LeBron's inability to beat the Warriors' switch-heavy defense. In the first two games, James put up numbers but struggled to score efficiently, even when switches let him get favorable matchups in strong positions. Early in Game 3, it seemed like James' troubles would continue as he started 5-of-14 from the floor while his teammates led the charge. However, he finally came alive in the second half with the chance to put the Warriors away. James shot 9-of-12 after his cool start and finished with 32 points, his second-best total of the playoffs. It took LeBron a while to find his chances in this series, and maybe some of his points came when the Warriors' defense wasn't quite at full intensity while trailing, but this was a welcomed showing from the four-time MVP.

Kevin Love's absence doesn't hurt the Cavs

It's been said in basketball circles that the Warriors' coaching staff was actually somewhat unhappy during last year's Finals when the Cavs were forced to play without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving due to injuries. Their absences allowed Cleveland to embrace a more defensive style and make things tough for the Warriors. In Game 3, the Cavs were again without Love -- this time due to a head injury suffered in the previous contest -- and didn't seem to miss him very much. Richard Jefferson started in Love's place and LeBron moved over to more of a power forward role, which allowed Cleveland to play a bit smaller and faster. That proved successful for the Cavs, and now it'll be interesting to see how the team tries to bring Love back into the fold if he clears post-concussion tests before the next game.

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LeBron looks to improve his NBA Finals legacy