CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant pushed the Golden State Warriors into dynasty’s doorstep.
LeBron James may be at the exit door.
Durant scored 43 points, draining a long 3-pointer in the last minute to cap his glorious 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 one final game with James, who listed his 10th triple-double in the finals. The three-time champion can opt out of his $35.6 million contract and examine free agency this summer, and it may be time for the 33-year-old to locate a team capable of beating the Warriors.
These Cavs can’t find it out.
CBSSports.com’s Kyle Boone writes,”There’ll be endless banter about where free-agent-to-be LeBron James decides to signal when he chooses to leave Cleveland. But one destination, the Los Angeles Lakers, has been the most talked landing place for the celebrity for quite some time now.”
Together with the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood defiantly and almost motionless after falling his 33-footer – almost from precisely the same spot from where he struck one in Game 3 last year – and effectively finished the fourth consecutive finals matchup between two teams that have gotten to know each other well because 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 nervous the Cavs could still come back.
Durant reported the similarity with last year’s shot a second that helped define his first championship – didn’t occur to him.
“No, not at all,” he said of this comparison. “I only took the photo.”
There was nothing that the Cavs could perform.
“It was like deja vu watching him hit that shot ,” Cavs ahead Kevin Love said.
Golden State will have four opportunities to wrap up its title beginning with Game 4 on Friday night. The Warriors are attempting to join a select collection of teams to win three championships in four years.
James scored 33 points and Kevin Love additional 20 for the Cavs, who have dropped into the hole where no team has ever arose. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Warriors in the 2016 finals, but that was when Durant was in Oklahoma City and James had a different supporting cast.
“We had our opportunities,” James stated. “You can’t make errors. They are not going to beat themselves.”
The Warriors won even though a 3-of-16 shooting operation from Curry, who did come up big down the stretch because the Cavs were hoping to salvage their season.
Durant, who tilted this competition toward the West Coast when he signed up with the Warriors as a free agent before last year, was brilliant from the start. He helped cancel a rough 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 didn’t score his second field goal until there were under three minutes left.
Curry’s scoop shot put the Warriors up 98-97 and defensive specialist Andre Iguodala, who didn’t play Games 1 or 2 because of a knee injury, came up with a steal under the basket. Curry eventually buried a 3 and after James matched him with a long shot, Iguodala drove the lane for a thundering dunk.
Seconds later, Durant delivered his dagger to silence Cleveland’s audience.
“The shot clock was running back, I had been fairly far out, I only wanted to get a look,” Durant said. “I did not wish to run there and take a bad shot, drop on the ground and they got numbers moving the other way, and so I opted to pull up”
James made a layup to pull the Cavs within four, it had been too little too late since the Warriors shut out it and beat Cleveland for its fourth consecutive time in finals games.
With JaVale McGee getting three point-blank shots at the rim, the Warriors opened the third quarter with a 9-3 spurt and it was not long until they took his first lead on Curry’s two free throws.
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