CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant stood calmly near midcourt — and a very familiar spot — as teammates Stephen Curry and Draymond Green screamed at him in celebration. Another momentous shot for Durant, and soon, probably another NBA championship.
Durant scored a career playoff-high 43 points, draining a long 3-pointer in the final minute to cap his magnificent performance, and the Warriors beat LeBron 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. The Warriors are on dynasty’s doorstep.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are in a hole that might as well be six-feet deep. Teams that have fallen behind 3-0 in the playoffs are 0-131. It might be time for the guys from Northern California to order some champagne from Napa Valley.
With the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood defiantly and almost motionless after dropping his 33-footer — just a few feet from where he made one in Game 3 last year — and effectively ended the fourth straight finals match-up between two teams who have gotten to know each other well since 2015.
After Durant scored, Curry and Green rushed to his side and the trio walked back toward Golden State’s bench where the other Warriors were hugging and high-fiving. As always Durant stayed cool.
“I don’t want to downplay anything, but I don’t want to act like this is the end of the road,” Durant said. “So just get back to work tomorrow and figure out a better game plan.”
Durant said 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. “I just took the shot.”
There was nothing James — not even an extraordinary oop off the backboard glass to himself to score — or the Cavs could dobut think about what might have been after losing two games that were within their reach.
“Tonight will be tough,” said James, who scored 33 and rolled his right ankle in the first half. “Tomorrow I’ll replay some plays and some moments and things of that nature. When I wake up Friday (today) morning I’ll be locked in on the game plan of what needs to be done to help our team win. That’s just who I am.”
Golden State will now have four chances to wrap up its title starting with Game 4 tonight. The Warriors are trying to join a select list of teams to win three championships in four years.