NBA Finals: Game 3
Golden State Warriors 110, Cleveland Cavaliers 102
Series: Golden State leads, 3-0
Next game: Friday, 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
• The story: When one MVP (Steph Curry) struggled, the Warriors other MVP (Kevin Durant) stepped up. (Read more)
• The play: LeBron James to LeBron James was winning combo early. (Read more)
• Postgame reading: Catch up on all the latest story lines as the NBA Finals have unfolded. (Read more)
CLEVELAND — It was a year ago Thursday that Kevin Durant buried a three-pointer from the left wing in the final minute of Game 3 of the NBA Finals inside Quicken Loans Arena to push the Golden State Warriors within one win of the 2017 NBA title.
A year later, in another NBA Finals Game 3, history repeated, only from a few feet further beyond the arc.
“It was like déjà vu, seeing him hit that shot again,” Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said.
That last dagger from Durant pushed him to a playoff career-high 43 points on the night – going 15-for-23 from the field, along with 13 rebounds and seven assists – to lift the Warriors to a 110-102 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Durant, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, has the Warriors on the precipice of a second straight championship and third in four years.
“That was amazing what he did out there tonight,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. “Some of those shots, I don’t think anybody in the world can hit those but him.
“He was incredible.”
He needed to be because the Warriors, a team blessed with a pair of former MVPs on their roster, got very little from their other one – Stephen Curry. After lighting the Cavaliers up in Games 1 and 2 in Oakland, Curry shot 3 for 16 from the floor, scoring only 11 points.
But it was Curry’s circus layup with 2:58 remaining, followed by a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, that gave Golden State the lead back for good — and set the stage for Durant to hit a devastating deep three that all but ended Cleveland’s season for the second year in a row.
“I just tried to play hard defense, rebound as best as I could, and be patient and play with poise,” Durant said. “I just tried to be aggressive and do something. I just tried, each time down, to focus on getting a good shot each possession. Defensively is where we came to play in the second half. We’re going to need that effort for the full 48 minutes.”
The crucial, crushing three-pointer, which he took from 33 feet with the shot clock winding down, made it 106-100 with 49.8 seconds to go, sending fans streaming to the exits and ending a second valiant effort from the underdog Cavaliers in the first three games of this series.
“It was a big shot,” Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue said. “I mean, he was four or five feet behind the line, and he raised up and made a big shot for them.”
But while Cleveland can walk away thinking it should’ve won two of these first three games, the scoreboard has LeBron James — who had 33 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists while playing 47 minutes — one game away from being on the wrong end of a Finals sweep for the second time in his career.
With the Cavaliers knowing their backs were against the wall, it was expected that they would come out of the gates flying in Game 3.
They didn’t disappoint.
Opening the game with a 16-4 run, Cleveland led wire-to-wire in the first half behind a similar formula that put the Cavaliers on the doorstep of winning Game 1 in Oakland last week: getting physical with Golden State.
Cleveland out-rebounded Golden State 28-16 in the first half — including grabbing an absurd 10 offensive rebounds. That allowed the Cavaliers to have 12 more shots than the Warriors, including eight more makes. Add in Curry’s struggles and it was a minor miracle Golden State only trailed by six, 58-52, at halftime.
So how were the Warriors able to keep it close? Because Durant went crazy, scoring 24 points on 7-for-10 shooting, and Golden State kept getting to the free throw line. The Warriors went 12 for 13 from the line. Cleveland, meanwhile, didn’t attempt a single one.
That fact was noted by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who tweeted out a box score with the free throw numbers for each team circled at halftime.
Gilbert was likely pleased when, 22 seconds into the third quarter, James drove to the basket, made a bucket and was fouled, promptly giving Cleveland its first free throw of the game.
Things quickly went in Golden State’s favor after that, though, as the Warriors opened the third with a 17-6 run to take their first lead of the game.
From there, the game never got outside of five points in either direction until Durant’s crushing three.
And, just as it did in Game 3 a year ago, it moved Durant and the Warriors to the precipice of a championship.
The Cavaliers needed another scorer to come alive for them in Game 3.
Rodney Hood has been that player.
Hood has 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting, along with five rebounds, to help Cleveland to a 93-92 lead midway through the fourth. Hood has six points in the fourth quarter alone, hitting all three of his shots, to give the Cavaliers an unexpected boost off the bench after being out of the rotation in Games 1 and 2.
Curry is now 1 for- 13 in this game and has scored just four points. Remarkably, though, Golden State is only down one. That’s the benefit of having a second MVP winner on your team.
At some point in the fourth, though, you’d have to think someone else on the Warriors will have to start scoring for them to win this game.
Kevin Durant is single-handedly keeping the Warriors in this game.
With 34 points through three quarters, Durant has the Warriors up 83-81, despite no one else on the Warriors having more than 10 points and Stephen Curry going 1 for 11 from the field for four points.
LeBron James has 21 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists, while Kevin Love has 18 points and 10 rebounds. Cleveland will need someone else to step up here in the fourth.
The Warriors trailed by six at halftime.
It took 2:03 of the third quarter for that deficit to be erased, and for the Warriors to take their first lead of the game.
That’s how Golden State is able to flip games in the blink of an eye.
ESPN reported during the game that Andre Iguodala has a right leg contusion – after missing the past six games with a left leg contusion.
Iguodala, who went back to the locker room just before the first half ended, is available to play in the second half.
The Cavaliers were called for 12 fouls in the first half, while the Warriors were called for eight. The Warriors, though, shot 13 free throws, making 12, while the Cavaliers didn’t attempt a single one.
That fact appears to have caught the eye of Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert, who tweeted out the box score with the free throw attempts circled on it.
And, after just 22 seconds of the third quarter, LeBron James made an and-one runner, and hit the corresponding free throw.
Something to monitor in the second half: the status of LeBron James’s ankle.
James rolled it in the second quarter, and after making a layup right after doing so, missed his final three shots of the first half.
We’ve seen James shake off an injury so many times, it’s hard to imagine an ankle sprain will slow him down much. But given how he played in the second quarter after doing so, it’s at least something to monitor.
Golden State has no business still being in this game.
But because the Warriors have Kevin Durant, they are, trailing 58-52 to Cleveland at halftime in a game they could easily trail by two or three times that much.
“I like everything about Kevin Durant,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said during his between-quarters interview with Doris Burke with a laugh.
He certainly does right now. Durant has 24 points on 7-for-10 shooting in the first half, scoring nearly half of Golden State’s points as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have gone 3 for 15 overall, and 1 for 9 from three.
Cleveland, though, has gone 6 for 14 from three-point range – giving them a chance to have a shooting performance over 40 percent from deep for only the second time since the start of the Eastern Conference finals. When the Cavaliers hit threes, they are a different team.
Draymond Green and Stephen Curry have three fouls each in the first half. Those two have actually gotten six of the eight total fouls called against Golden State in the game (Cleveland has been called for 12, for those assuming bias against the road team), but having six fouls split between two of Golden State’s four stars is not what Steve Kerr was looking for.
Neither was Andre Iguodala going back to the locker room with trainer Chelsea Lane before the half. There was no word initially about what the issue was there, or if Iguodala was just getting back there a minute early.
LeBron James remains an unstoppable machine.
Moments after twisting his ankle, James retied his shoe, drove through Golden State’s defense and converted a layup to make it 42-34 Cleveland halfway through the second quarter.
James already has 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists in 17 minutes, as he looks set to play the entire 48 minutes if he has to. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are 4-for-11 from three-point range, putting them on pace to have one of their better three-point shooting games in awhile.
The Cavaliers led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter, but an 18-9 run by the Warriors to end the first quarter allowed Golden State to close to within one point.
It was an odd first quarter. Golden State has seven rebounds – all of them grabbed by Kevin Durant. Cleveland made its first two threes – then missed six in a row before Jeff Green made one in the final seconds of the quarter. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went 2 for 9 from the field, missing several open shots.
But after all of that, Golden State is only down one – which has to be a win for the Warriors.
Draymond Green has picked up his fifth technical foul of these playoffs, after referee John Goble hit both Green and Tristan Thompson with offsetting techs halfway through the first quarter.
Green now has to be careful not only tonight, as one more technical will get him ejected from this game, but in this series, as two more technicals would move him to seven for the playoffs – which would result in a one-game suspension.
And we all remember what happened the last time Green was suspended for a game during the NBA Finals …
The Cavaliers look like a team that’s happy to be back home.
Cleveland has erupted for a 16-4 lead early in this game, hitting two threes and scoring 10 points in the paint as the Cavaliers have hit the offensive glass (three rebounds) and gotten a ridiculous dunk from LeBron James.
The Cavaliers are due to have a great shooting game from three-point range. If that can happen tonight, Cleveland has a chance to get back into this series.
Take a look at this:
The most remarkable thing about this play is it appeared James decided to do it as he picked up his dribble. He saw the lane was open, and the second McGee stepped toward him he pivoted, went past him, threw the ball off the backboard to himself and detonated at the rim.
Both the Warriors and Cavaliers are remaining with the same starting groups to begin this game that started Game 2 – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and McGee for Golden State, and George Hill, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson for Cleveland.
Iguodala will likely play in the 20-minute range, and should enter the game sometime in the mid-to-late first quarter.
From bad to worse for the Cavs: Iguodala has a ‘good chance’ of playing in Game 3
CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Cavaliers were already in trouble after dropping the first two games of the NBA Finals in Oakland.
Now, going into Game 3, the Cavaliers were dealt another bad bit of news when Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr made it seem likely that Andre Iguodala will return after missing the past six games with a bone bruise in his left knee.
“I think there’s a good chance he’ll play,” Kerr said. “I don’t know how many minutes he’d be able to play.”
Iguodala’s absence has been a significant loss for Golden State, as the Warriors have struggled to find a solid fifth player to insert into their lineup alongside the team’s four all-stars: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.
Kevon Looney has been the best and most consistent option, but has also struggled at times. Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, JaVale McGee and Nick Young have taken turns, as well, with middling or less success.
“Andre helps us in every regard,” Kerr said. “He’s one of the smartest players in the league. He handles the ball for us a lot on offense. He’s a great decision-maker, and he’s an excellent defender as well. So it can only help us.”
One thing Kerr didn’t add was he is Golden State’s best option to guard LeBron James – something that the Warriors will be hoping Iguodala can do for 20 minutes or so in Game 3.
If he can, Cleveland’s task of getting back into this series just got significantly harder – and it was already a tough task to begin with.