Durant Carries Warriors Over Cavs in Game 3
Golden State Leads Series 3-0
He did it again.
Kevin Durant buried a three-pointer with 49.8 seconds left from nearly the exact same spot as his Game 3 dagger from a year ago to deal the decisive blow in Golden State’s 110-102 Game 3 road victory over the Cavs on Wednesday night. Durant was magnificent from the opening tip, scoring in double digits in each of the first three quarters before pushing the Warriors over the top in the final minute, finishing the game with a playoff career-high 43 points, in addition to 13 rebounds and seven assists. Stephen Curry contributed 11 points and six assists, while Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, JaVale McGee and Jordan Bell added 10 points apiece to help Golden State take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
COME FROM BEHIND
While the Warriors were the ones celebrating a victory at the conclusion of Wednesday’s game, it certainly didn’t come easily. The Cavs were in desperate need of a win, and came out of the gates looking like it, putting Golden State in an early hole. Cleveland converted their first three shot attempts and scored on five of their first seven possessions on their way to building a 16-4 lead just over four minutes into the contest. That was the earliest in a game the Warriors had faced a double-digit deficit all season long. They’d soon settle in, though, and finish the first quarter on an 18-7 run to pull within 29-28 at the end of the first frame. Cleveland then rebuilt a 13-point advantage on Kevin Love’s three-pointer with 4:06 remaining in the first half, but that would prove to be their largest lead of the night, as the Warriors would close within 58-52 going into halftime.
Golden State opened the second half on an 11-3 burst to take their first lead of the night on two Stephen Curry free throws with 9:57 left in the third frame, after which the Dubs wouldn’t trail by more than one at any point in the remainder of the contest. They also, however, would prove unable to create much separation, and would head into the fourth and final quarter clinging to a slim 83-81 advantage. The fourth frame featured eight lead changes, but the final one was provided by a Curry layup that put Golden State up 98-97 with 2:58 left to play. Curry and LeBron James would then alternate three-pointers, but Andre Iguodala followed James’ trey with a driving slam, and Durant’s dagger three-pointer with 49.8 seconds left handed the Warriors a six-point lead and, ultimately, a 3-0 lead in the series.
With the victory, Golden State becomes the first team in NBA history to take a 3-0 series lead in back-to-back NBA Finals.
On a night when almost everyone else was struggling to get their shot to fall, Durant suffered no such issues. He was on-point from the opening tip, almost single-handedly weathering the Cavs’ early storm. He scored 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting and hauled in seven rebounds in the first quarter, accounting for all of Golden State’s rebounds in the opening frame. He continued his onslaught in the second quarter, and his three-pointer with 0.8 seconds left in the half gave the Dubs some momentum heading into the break.
Halftime couldn’t slow Durant down either, as he’d score another 10 points in the third frame. The fourth quarter would prove to be the only one in which he didn’t reach double figures, but every single one of his nine points in the final frame proved gigantic in shaping the outcome. He made four field goals in the fourth, with the first three conversions either changing the lead or breaking a tie. Then, with just under 50 seconds remaining, he supplied the defining moment of the game, depositing a 33-foot three-pointer from almost the exact same spot as his game-wining shot in Game 3 of the 2017 Finals to put the game out of reach.
His 43 points were a playoff career-high, and in adding another 13 rebounds and seven assists, Durant became the sixth player all-time with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on the road in the NBA Finals.
STEPH STICKS WITH IT
He struggled offensively for the vast majority of the night, but Stephen Curry ultimately came through when it mattered most. He accounted for just four points through the first three quarters on 1-of-11 shooting, including missing all seven of his three-point attempts. In the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter, he’d account for another three missed field goals and two turnovers. But after Love put the Cavaliers in front for the final time with two free throws with 3:11 left to play, Curry finally broke through. His layup on the ensuing possession gave the Warriors the lead for good, and his first three-pointer of the game 20 seconds later gave Golden State some brief breathing room.
After Durant put the Dubs up six, James responded with a layup to trim the Warriors’ lead to 106-102 with 40.4 seconds left to play. On the ensuing possession, Curry found Draymond Green for a dunk to end any chances of a comeback, and his two free throws with 11.7 seconds left closed out the victory.
Now leading the series 3-0, the Warriors will attempt to sweep the Cavaliers and win their second consecutive NBA Championship when they take on Cleveland in Game 4 on Friday night.
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