LeBron James turned in another virtuoso playoff performance in leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a thrilling 96-91 victory over the Golden State Warriors and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

James had a game-high 40 points to go along with 12 rebounds and eight assists in front of a raucous crowd of red T-shirt-clad fans, as Cleveland grabbed the upper hand in the championship series against the top seeded Warriors.

Cleveland never trailed in the game and led by as many as 20 points late in the third quarter but were put to the test as Golden State clawed back within a point with under three minutes remaining.

The league's reigning Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry had a horrible start to the game for Golden State but used a strong fourth quarter to finish with a team-high 27 points.

Stephen scored a team-high 27 points in Game Three [EPA]

But Curry made a costly error with two minutes to play and his team down by four points when he sent a behind-the-back pass out of bounds with no teammate in sight.

"I didn't see [James] take bad shots at all. I thought he was great," Cleveland head coach David Blatt said.

"I thought he controlled the game and helped his team to play the way that we wanted to play."

The Cavs, who were already heavy underdogs before losing All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to a knee injury in the opener, are suddenly two wins away from a maiden NBA title and ending the city's 51-year drought in major sports championships.

Game Four is on Thursday in Cleveland.

Source: Reuters