CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant pushed the Golden State Warriors into dynasty’s doorstep.
LeBron James may be in the exit door.
Durant scored 43 points, draining a lengthy 3-pointer in the final 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 tournament in four years.
And Cleveland may be down to one final match with James, who recorded his 10th triple-double in the finals. The three-time winner can opt out of his $35.6 million deal 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 not find out it.
CBSSports.com’s Kyle Boone writes,”There will be endless banter about where free-agent-to-be LeBron James decides to sign if he chooses to leave Cleveland. However one destination, the Los Angeles Lakers, has been the most talked landing place for the superstar for quite a while now.”
With the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood and almost motionless after dropping his 33-footer – almost from the exact same area from where he struck one in Game 3 last season – and effectively finished the fourth consecutive 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 cried in their teammate, who calmly walked toward the bench.
“I attempted to only 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 moment that helped establish his first championship – did not occur to him.
“No, not at all,” he said of the contrast. “I only took the shot.”
There was nothing the Cavs could do.
“It was like deja vu watching him hit that shot ,” Cavs forward Kevin Love stated.
Golden State will now have four opportunities to wrap up its title beginning with Game 4 to Friday night. The Warriors are attempting to join a select collection of groups to win three championships in four years.
James scored 33 points and Kevin Love additional 20 for the Cavs, who have fallen into the hole from which no team has ever arose. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Warriors at the 2016 finals, but that was when Durant was in Oklahoma City and James needed another supporting cast.
“We had our chances,” James said. “You can not 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 trying to salvage their time.
Durant, that tilted this rivalry toward the West Coast when he signed up with the Warriors as a free agent before last year, was brilliant from the beginning. He helped cancel a rough night for Curry, who left 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 up the Warriors 98-97 and defensive pro Andre Iguodala, who did not play in Games 1 or 2 due to a knee injury, came up with a sneak under the basket. Curry finally murdered a 3 and after James matched him with a lengthy 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 had been fairly much out, I just wanted to have a look,” Durant said. “I didn’t want to run and shoot a bad shot, fall on the ground and they got numbers going the other way, and so I opted to pull up.”
James made a layup to pull on the Cavs in 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 at the rim, the Warriors started the third quarter with a 9-3 spurt and it wasn’t long until they took his first lead on Curry’s two free throws.
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