CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant pushed the Golden State Warriors to dynasty’s doorstep.
LeBron James could be at the 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 decades.
And Cleveland could be down to one final match with James, who listed his 10th triple-double from the finals. The three-time winner can opt from the $35.6 million contract and test free agency this summer, and it can be time for the 33-year-old to find a team capable of beating the Warriors.
These Cavs can’t figure it out.
CBSSports.com’s Kyle Boone writes,»There’ll be endless banter about where free-agent-to-be LeBron James makes the decision to sign if he chooses to leave Cleveland. However one destination, the Los Angeles Lakers, has been the most talked landing spot for the superstar for quite a while now.»
With the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood and almost motionless after falling his 33-footer — nearly from precisely the same spot from where he hit one in Game 3 last year — and effectively ended 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 cried in their teammate, who calmly walked toward the seat.
«I attempted to just stay in the zone,» Durant said, admitting he was worried the Cavs could still come back.
Durant reported the similarity with last year’s shot a moment that helped establish his first championship — didn’t happen to him.
«No, not at all,» he said of the comparison. «I only took the shot.»
«It was like deja vu seeing him hit that shot again,» Cavs forward Kevin Love stated.
Golden State will have four chances 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 decades.
James scored 33 points and Kevin Love additional 20 for the Cavs, who have fallen 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 another supporting cast.
«We had our chances,» James stated. «You can’t make errors. They are 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 season.
Durant, who tilted this rivalry toward the West Coast when he signed up 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 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 did not play in Games 1 or two because of a knee injury, came up with a sneak under the basket. Curry eventually buried a 3 and afterwards James matched him with a lengthy shot, Iguodala drove the lane for a dip dip.
Seconds later, Durant delivered his dagger to silence Cleveland’s crowd.
«The shot clock was running back, I was fairly far out, I only wanted to get a look,» Durant said. «I didn’t want to run there and take a terrible shot, drop on the floor and they got amounts moving the other way, and so I decided to pull up.»
James made a layup to pull on the Cavs in four, it had been too little too late since the Warriors closed it out and beat Cleveland for the fourth consecutive time in finals games.
Together with JaVale McGee acquiring three point-blank shots at the rim, the Warriors started the third quarter with a 9-3 spurt and it wasn’t long before they took their first lead on Curry’s two free throws.