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 tournament in four years.
And Cleveland may be down to a last match with James, who listed his 10th triple-double in the finals. The three-time winner can opt out of his $35.6 million contract and also examine 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’t find out it.
CBSSports.com’s Kyle Boone writes,”There’ll be endless banter about where free-agent-to-be LeBron James makes the decision to sign when he chooses to leave Cleveland. However one destination, the Los Angeles Lakers, has been the most discussed landing spot for the superstar for quite a while now.”
Together with the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood defiantly and nearly motionless after dropping his 33-footer – nearly from precisely the same spot from where he hit one in Game 3 last year – 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 in their teammate, who calmly walked toward the seat.
“I attempted to just stay in the zone,” Durant said, acknowledging he was worried the Cavs could still come back.
Durant reported the similarity with last year’s shot – a moment that helped define his first championship – didn’t occur to him.
“No, not at all,” he said of the comparison. “I only took the photo.”
“It was like deja vu seeing him hit that shot again,” Cavs ahead Kevin Love stated.
Golden State will have four opportunities to wrap up its title beginning with Game 4 on Friday night. The Warriors are trying to combine a select collection of groups to win three championships in four decades.
James scored 33 points and Kevin Love additional 20 for the Cavs, who have dropped into the hole where no team has ever emerged. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Warriors in the 2016 finals, but that was Durant was in Oklahoma City and James had a different supporting cast.
“We had our chances,” James stated. “You can not make errors. They’re not going to beat themselves.”
The Warriors won despite a 3-of-16 shooting operation 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 rough night for Curry, who made a finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2, but was only 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 did not play in Games 1 or two due to a knee injury, came up with a sneak under the basket. Curry eventually buried a 3 and afterwards James matched him with a long shot, Iguodala drove the lane for a thundering dunk.
Moments later, Durant delivered his dagger to silence Cleveland’s crowd.
“The shot clock was running back, I was pretty much out, I only wanted to get a look,” Durant said. “I did not want to run and shoot a terrible shot, fall on the ground and they got numbers moving the other way so I decided to pull up”
James made a layup to pull the Cavs within four, it had been too little too late as the Warriors closed out it and beat Cleveland for the fourth consecutive time in finals games.
Together 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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