CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant pushed the Golden State Warriors to dynasty’s doorstep.
LeBron James could be at the exit door.
Durant scored 43 points, draining a lengthy 3-pointer in the final minute to cap his magnificent performance, and the Warriors beat James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 110-102, in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night to move within a victory of a sweep, their second straight title and third championship in four years.
And Cleveland could be down to a final game with James, who recorded his 10th triple-double from the finals. The three-time champion can opt out of the $35.6 million contract and test free agency this summer, and it can be time for your 33-year-old to locate a team capable of beating the Warriors.
These Cavs can not figure it out.
CBSSports.com’s Kyle Boone writes,”There’ll be endless banter about where free-agent-to-be LeBron James decides to sign if he chooses to leave Cleveland. But one destination, the Los Angeles Lakers, has been the most talked landing spot for the superstar for quite some time now.”
With the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood and nearly motionless after falling his 33-footer – nearly from precisely the same spot from where he struck one in Game 3 last season – and effectively finished the fourth straight finals matchup between two teams who have gotten to know each other well since 2015.
After Durant scored, Stephen Curry and Draymond surrounded Durant and screamed at their teammate, who calmly walked toward the bench.
“I attempted to just stay in the zone,” Durant said, acknowledging he was worried the Cavs could come back.
Durant reported the similarity with last year’s shot – a second which helped establish his first championship – did not occur to him.
“No, not at all,” he said of the comparison. “I just took the shot.”
“It was like deja vu watching him hit that shot ,” Cavs forward Kevin Love stated.
Golden State will have four opportunities to wrap up its name starting with Game 4 on Friday night. The Warriors are trying to join a select list of teams to win three championships in four decades.
James scored 33 points and Kevin Love added 20 for the Cavs, who have dropped into the hole from which no team has ever arose. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Warriors at the 2016 finals, but that was when Durant was in Oklahoma City and James needed another supporting cast.
“We had our chances,” James said. “You can not make mistakes. They’re not going to beat themselves.”
The Warriors won despite a 3-of-16 shooting performance from Curry, who did come up big down the stretch because the Cavs were trying to salvage their time.
Durant, who tilted this competition toward the West Coast when he signed with the Warriors as a free agent before last season, was brilliant from the beginning. He helped cancel a night for Curry, who left a finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2, but was just 1 of 10 from behind the arc and did not score his second field goal until there were under three minutes left.
Curry’s scoop shot put up the Warriors 98-97 and defensive pro Andre Iguodala, who didn’t play Games 1 or two because of a knee injury, came up with a steal under the basket. Curry eventually murdered a 3 and after James matched him with a lengthy shot, Iguodala drove the lane for a dip dip.
Seconds later, Durant delivered his dagger to silence Cleveland’s crowd.
“The shot clock was running down, I had been pretty far out, I only wanted to get a look,” Durant said. “I did not want to run there and take a bad shot, drop on the floor and they got amounts going the other way, and so I decided to pull up”
James made a layup to pull the Cavs in four, it was too little too late since the Warriors closed it out and beat Cleveland for its fourth straight time in finals games.
With JaVale McGee acquiring three point-blank shots in the rim, the Warriors started the third quarter with a 9-3 spurt and it wasn’t long before they took his first lead on Curry’s two free throws.
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