Defending champion Golden State, powered by 43 points from Kevin Durant, moved to the brink of a third NBA title in four seasons on Wednesday by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-102.
The Warriors seized a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals and by winning game four Friday would complete the first championship series sweep since Cleveland was blanked by San Antonio in 2007.
“I don’t want to downplay anything but I don’t want to act like this is the end of the road,” Durant said. “We did some things that we need to correct if we want to win the next game. I’ve just got stay locked in.”
No team has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series, but the Cavaliers made the top comeback in NBA Finals history in 2016 from 3-1 down to swipe a title from Golden State.
“It’s definitely a tough loss,” said Cavaliers star LeBron James. “We had our chances. But we have another opportunity on Friday to extend the series but we’ve got to come out and play 48 minutes.”
Durant added 12 rebounds and seven assists to his top playoff scoring total, but it was not until his 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining to give the Warriors a 106-100 lead that Cleveland’s fate was sealed.
“That was amazing what he did out there,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Some of those shots, I don’t think anybody in the world but him could have made those shots. He was incredible.”
Durant’s last basket was eerily like a 3-pointer he made late in game three last year against the Cavs that clinched a Golden State victory.
“He’s definitely an assassin and that was one of those assassin plays right there,” James said.
“It was like deja vu seeing that shot again,” Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said.
It was another dagger in the title hopes of James, who had 33 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists while Kevin Love added 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
“It was a big shot,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “He was four or five feet behind the (3-point) line and he raised up and made a big shot for them. So, you know, kind of like he did last year.”
– ‘Ridiculous’ Durant –
The Cavaliers had been 8-1 at home in the playoffs with eight wins in a row since losing their first-round opener to Indiana.
“We feel like we’ve been right there,” Love said. “We just have to come out Friday and not give in.”
But the Warriors improved to 10-2 against the Cavaliers since Durant joined Golden State before last season.
“His overall game was ridiculous — the passing, the rebounding, the scoring,” Kerr said. “It wasn’t just the number of points. It seemed like every time we needed a bucket he got it for us.”
James landed badly going for a rebound early in the second quarter and limped on his right ankle, but the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player kept the Cavaliers in contention to the end.
“I twisted it pretty good,” James said. “But I’ll be in the lineup on Friday.”
Durant scored nine points in a 15-8 run to close the second quarter that pulled Golden State within 58-52 at half-time after trailing by as many as 13 points.
“Kevin was the story in the first half just keeping us in the game,” Kerr said. “And then he was the story in the second half as well, closing it out.”
JaVale McGee scored six points and Durant added five in a 15-3 Golden State run early in the third quarter that produced the Warriors’ first lead and saw it grow to a team-best 69-64.
The Cavaliers battled into the final seconds but Stephen Curry, who missed 13 of his first 14 shots, conncted on a layup and 3-pointer back-to-back to give Golden State the lead for good.
“As usual he hit a big one,” Kerr said. “He always finds a way to make big plays even on his toughest nights.”
Curry had 11 points while McGee, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Jordan Ball all had 10.
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, returned to Golden State’s lineup after being sidelined by a left leg bone bruise. He suffered a bruised right leg in the second quarter but returned in the fourth quarter.