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 long 3-pointer in the last minute to cap his magnificent performance, along with 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 could be down to one final match with James, who listed his 10th triple-double in the finals. The three-time champion can opt out of the $35.6 million deal and test free agency this summer, and it can be time for the 33-year-old to locate a team capable of beating the Warriors.
These Cavs can’t find 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. But one destination, the Los Angeles Lakers, has been the most discussed landing place for the superstar for quite some time now.“
Together with the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood defiantly and nearly motionless after dropping his 33-footer – almost from precisely the same area from where he struck one in Game 3 last season – 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 screamed at their teammate, who calmly walked toward the bench.
„I attempted to only stay in the zone,“ Durant said, acknowledging that he was worried the Cavs could come back.
Durant said the similarity with last year’s shot – a second that helped define his first championship – did not occur to him.
„No, not at all,“ he said of this comparison. „I just took the photo.“
„It was like deja vu watching him hit that shot ,“ Cavs ahead Kevin Love said.
Golden State will have four opportunities to wrap up its name beginning with Game 4 to Friday night. The Warriors are trying to join a select collection of teams to win three championships in four years.
James scored 33 points and Kevin Love added 20 for the Cavs, who have dropped into the hole from which no team has ever emerged. 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 opportunities,“ James stated. „You can not make mistakes. 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, who tilted this rivalry toward the West Coast when he signed with the Warriors as a free agent before last season, was brilliant from the beginning. He helped offset a night for Curry, who made a finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2, but was just 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 pro Andre Iguodala, who did not play in Games 1 or two due to a knee injury, came up with a steal under the basket. Curry finally buried a 3 and afterwards James matched him with a lengthy shot, Iguodala drove the lane for a thundering dunk.
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 have a look,“ Durant said. „I did not wish to run and shoot a bad shot, fall on the ground and they got amounts moving the other way, and so I opted to pull up“
James made a layup to pull on the Cavs within four, it was too little too late as the Warriors closed it out and beat Cleveland for the fourth straight 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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