A parade might be coming to the city of Oakland yet again.
Kevin Durant scored a career playoff-high 43 points, and the Golden State Warriors moved within one win from repeating as NBA champions with a 110-102 victory in Game 3 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at the Quicken Loans Arena.
Durant shot 15-for-23 from the field, 6-for-9 from 3-point range and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. He added 13 rebounds and seven assists.
“That was amazing what he did out there tonight,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Some of those shots, I don’t think anybody in the world can hit those but him. He was incredible.”
“It just happened within the flow,” Durant said. “I wasn’t expecting to come out or shoot a lot of shots or look to score. I was just trying to play great defense and run the plays that coach draws up and just run with the flow of what our offense is like throughout the game.
While the Warriors are poised to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the third time in four years, LeBron James and the Cavaliers will again have the front seat to watch the celebrations. James had 33 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists for his 10th career Finals triple-double.
“It’s definitely a tough loss, and we had our chances,” James said. “But we have another opportunity on Friday to win on our home floor. We’ve been pretty good throughout the postseason. So that’s a good thing for us that we have an opportunity to extend the series, but we’ve got to come out and play 48 minutes.”
For the second straight Finals, the iconic shot in Game 3 belonged to Durant. On June 7, 2017, Durant hit a 26-foot 3-pointer from the left wing with 45.3 seconds left to put Golden State up one. On June 6, 2018, Durant hit a 33-foot 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 49.8 seconds on the clock to put the Warriors up six. While Stephen Curry and Draymond Green jumped and shouted at him, Durant was stone-faced.
“I just internalize it a little bit as I get older a little bit more than I did as a younger player,” Durant said. “So I was definitely excited. It’s hard to make shots at this level in the NBA, and I understand that. But at the same time, I knew the game wasn’t over. I’ve seen some crazy stuff happened in my years of playing basketball, not just in the NBA but just overall. We were up 6 with 25 seconds to go, I think. So anything could happen.”
While everyone was trying to compare the two shots, James knew the shots and the circumstances were different.
“The one he made tonight was about four or five feet behind the one he made last year,” James said. “Last year we were up two, and he pulled up pretty much right at the 3-point line and got a great contest, but he made it. Tonight, they’re up three. They came off a pick-and-roll and he just stopped behind and pulled four or five feet behind the three-point line. So same wing, different location.
“But you definitely tip your hat. That’s what he does. He’s a scorer. You know, he’s assassin, and that was one of those assassin plays right there.”
The Warriors will look to do something Friday they couldn’t do last year in Game 4 at The Q, and that is to sweep the Cavaliers to lock up the championship.
“Looking forward to that opportunity to close out and win a championship,” Curry said. “It’s going to be tough. We thought tonight was hard. It’s going to be even harder in Game 4, so we’ve got to be ready.”
Here are a few observations from the Warriors’ pivotal Game 3 victory over the Cavaliers.
Curry went an unheard-of 36 minutes without a field goal — missing 10 straight shots, including seven from 3-point range — but delivered in winning time. With just under three minutes left, Curry put the Warriors up one after hitting an off-balance layup off a pass from Draymond Green. After a steal by Andre Iguodala and miscommunication on defense by the Cavaliers, Curry found himself wide open at the 3-point line. The Warriors went up by four.
“It was a crazy night all the way around, and didn’t have anything going offensively,” Curry said. “Tried to still play with energy and tried to do the little things here and there to help the team…My teammates were talking to me the whole game, which was helpful.”
Curry finished with 11 points on 3-for-16 shooting, six assists, five rebounds and a steal. After setting an NBA Finals record in Game 2 with nine 3-pointers, Curry misfired on nine of 10 shots from beyond the arc.
“Steph was 3 for 16, 1 for 10, but as usual he hit a big one,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He always finds a way to make big plays even on his toughest nights.”
“We know that he was struggling from the field,” Green said. “However, we’re not going away from him. We’re going to continue to give him the ball, and he can continue to shoot however many shots he wants.”
The Warriors might not have been victorious if not for the return of Iguodala, who missed the last six games with a left lateral leg contusion. The 2015 Finals MVP came up with the clutch steal that led to Curry’s 3-pointer. After James cut the lead to one with a 3-pointer, Iguodala showed his hops have returned by soaring for a slam off a pick-and-roll with Durant. Iguodala finished with eight points, two rebounds, two assists, steal and a plus-14 in 21:54.
“One thing with Andre is that he’s not like most players in terms of needing rhythm and needing minutes to get his conditioning back,” Kerr said. “He just never gets tired, even when he’s been out two and a half weeks and hasn’t really been running much at all. He’s still able to play through all of that.”
Iguodala went to the locker room just before halftime after banging his other leg, according to Kerr.
Before they were known for submitting opponents in the third quarter, the Warriors’ M.O. used to be snatching the souls of teams at the end of quarters. We saw a glimpse of it return in the first half.
From the 3:38 mark to the end of the opening quarter and the final 4:06 in the first half, Golden State outscored Cleveland 31-15. The Warriors shot 10-for-15 from the field, 4-for-5 from 3-point range and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line without committing a turnover. The Cavaliers shot 7-for-16 with two turnovers.
During the other 16:16, Golden State was outscored 43-21. The Warriors shot 8-for-26 from the field, missing all nine of their 3-point attempts. They were also outrebounded 23-10, including 7-2 on offensive boards. The Jekyll and Hyde Warriors trailed 58-52 at halftime.
“We felt very fortunate to only be down six,” Kerr said. “I think we were down 12 early in the game and they were getting every rebound and we couldn’t make a shot. Kevin was the story in the first half, just keeping us in the game, and then he was the story in the second half as well, closing it out.”
The Warriors made their customary run to open the second half, outscoring the Cavaliers 17-6 in the first 4:16 to take a 64-59 lead. It was their first lead of the game. Durant had five points, four rebounds, an assist and a block. Draymond Green orchestrated the charge with four assists. JaVale McGee was at the center of it all with eight points and two offensive rebounds.
“JaVale’s been in and out of the lineup,” Kerr said. “He started against the Spurs the whole series in the first round, and didn’t play much the next two, but he stayed ready. He got his work in with the rest of the guys during those weeks, kept his conditioning up, and he’s giving us a huge lift now.”
“My whole goal when I go out there is to bring as much energy as possible,” McGee said. “I felt like I didn’t really bring as much energy as I should have in that first half. That’s when I go in, the first quarter and third quarter. So that’s my time to shine.
Golden State shot 7-for-10 from the field, while holding Cleveland to 2-for-9 shooting. The Warriors dominated the boards 9-2.
“We took some bad shots, and sometimes a bad shot is just as good as a turnover because we’re not expecting it,” Lue said. “They get out in transition and get an easy basket. So us missing some shots and taking some bad shots, they were able to capitalize on it.”
The Cavaliers managed to tie the game moments later and it was nail-biting time for both fan bases. There were five ties in the fourth quarter. Curry’s layup was the final of eight lead changes.
McGee finished with 10 points, being one of four Warriors to do so. Green, Klay Thompson and rookie Jordan Bell were the others. Shaun Livingston matched Iguodala with eight points.
“We’re not playing our bench as many minutes in this series as we have in the past, at least in the last few years.” Kerr said. “But we’re getting really good production. Shaun’s had a tremendous series. Bell was really good tonight. We needed his athleticism and his ability to guard multiple positions.”
Kevin Love scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half and pulled down 13 rebounds. Rodney Hood played significant minutes for the first time in the series and responded with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting and six rebounds. J.R. Smith had 13 points and three steals.
Green picked up his fifth technical of the playoffs midway through the first quarter when he jawed back-and-forth with Tristan Thompson. He was fortunate not to pick up a second tech just 39 seconds later when he showed his disapproval over a foul call.
“I’m a human being, and we have emotions and you react to certain things,” Green said. “Whether I have a reaction or not, I’m not walking up to the official to have a reaction. If I have a reaction, I’m probably going the other way. You know, it is what it is. I don’t play the game of basketball worried about if the official is going to think one thing or another. I just play and go about it that way.”