Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) passes around Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
CLEVELAND, OH — Kevin Durant’s 31 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 45.3 left in the fourth quarter propelled the Golden State Warriors to within 48 minutes of their second title in three years with a 118-113 win in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Durant signed with Golden State last summer after nine seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder for an opportunity to finally capture that elusive championship ring that he so desperately seeks.
Trailing by six with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter, Golden State closed out the game on a 11-0 run with Durant scoring 14 points in the final quarter. Golden State tightened up the defense during that stretch, holding Cleveland to 0-for-8 from the floor.
When you combine the 16-1 finish to the regular season, and the NBA-record 15 straight postseason victories (including tonight’s come-from-behind victory), Golden State is 30-1 in their last 31 games. Golden State owns the longest postseason winning streak among the four major professional sports.
That sounds great and all, but that is not the ultimate prize that the Warriors are playing for with a commanding 3-0 lead in hand over the Cavaliers in the best-of-7 NBA Finals.
If the Warriors can close out the series in Friday night’s Game 4, Golden State will become the only team in NBA history to finish the postseason unblemished at 16-0 and denying Cleveland their second-straight championship. Cleveland engineered the greatest comeback in NBA Finals’ history when they stormed back last year and won the title from Golden State after the Warriors claimed a 3-1 lead.
The Warriors haven’t forgotten that sickening feeling of seeing Cleveland celebrating on Golden State’s home floor in Game 7 last year. Cleveland denied Golden State (who also won an NBA-record 73 games) the opportunity of winning back-to-back titles after Golden State won the 2015 NBA Championship over the Cavaliers in six games.
Now, Golden State is looking to return the favor and drive a stake through the Cavaliers’ heart by potentially sweeping them this year. No team has ever come back to win the NBA Finals when trailing 3-0.
Durant finished 10-for-18 from the floor, to go along with 4-for-7 on 3s, and joined Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in league history to average 25-plus points per game in their first eight games in the Finals according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Klay Thompson scored 21 of his 30 points in the first half and Stephen Curry finished with 24 for Golden State. Curry finished with six assists, and had 13 of the team’s 44 rebounds out-rebounding Cleveland (37) in the process.
Golden State knocked down a Finals’ record nine 3-pointers in the first quarter. After making a Finals’ record 18-of-43 3-pointers in Game 2, Golden State remained hot on 3s going 16-for-33 in Game 3. Thompson made a team-high six 3s.
Golden State shot 48-percent (40-for-83) from the floor on the night.
Ditto from the free throw line.
As in Game 2 when the Warriors shot 22-for-24 from the free throw line, Golden State hit the replay button and shot 22-for-24 in Game 3.
Cleveland finds themselves on the brink of a sweep after giving Golden State their best punch of the series in Game 3.
LeBron James, who is averaging a triple-double so far in the series, nearly had another triple-double with 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. James tied his personal best for points in a Finals half with 27 points, while Kyrie Irving resurfaced his game, scoring 16 of his 38 points in the third quarter.
James and Irving left everything on the court in Game 4 for Cleveland, combining to shoot 31-for-56 from the floor and helped Cleveland out-score Golden State 33-22 in the third quarter, but it still wasn’t enough for a Cavaliers team that shot a 44-percent from the field (40-for-90).
J.R. Smith added 16 points after scoring just three points total in the first two games of the series, while Kevin Love struggled in Game 3 mustering just nine points on 1-for-9 shooting.
Cleveland was an iceberg from the 3-point line, shooting a dismal 12-for-44 (27-percent) on 3s, and allowed Golden State to rack up 29 assists to Cleveland’s 17.
After winning the first two games of the series by a combined 41 points and not yielding a second half lead until Cleveland took a 71-69 in the third quarter, Golden State needed all 48 minutes to outlast Cleveland Wednesday night.