Kevin Durant stood calmly near midcourt – and a very familiar spot – as teammates Stephen Curry and Draymond Green screamed at him in celebration.
Another momentous shot for Durant.
And soon Authentic Mitchell Marner Jersey , probably another NBA championship.
Durant scored a career playoff-high 43 points, draining a long 3-pointer in the final minute to cap his magnificent performance, and the Warriors beat LeBron 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 championship in four years.
The Warriors are on dynasty’s doorstep.
Afterward, the defending champs could be heard loudly celebrating inside their locker room, perhaps a warmup for a bigger party to come.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are in a hole that might as well be 6 feet deep. Teams that have fallen behind 3-0 in the playoffs are 0-131.
It might be time for the guys from Northern California to order some champagne from Napa Valley.
With the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood defiantly and almost motionless after dropping his 33-footer – just a few feet from where he made one in Game 3 last year – and effectively ended the fourth straight finals matchup between two teams who have gotten to know each other well since 2015.
After Durant scored, Curry and Green rushed to his side and the trio walked back toward Golden State’s bench where the other Warriors were hugging and high-fiving.
As always Durant stayed cool.
”I don’t want to downplay anything, but I don’t want to act like this is the end of the road,” Durant said. ”So just get back to work tomorrow and figure out a better game plan.”
Durant said the similarity with last year’s shot – a moment that helped define his first championship – didn’t occur to him.
”No, not at all,” he said. ”I just took the shot.”
There was nothing James or the Cavs could do but think about what might have been after losing two games that were within their reach.
”Tonight will be tough,” said James, who scored 33 and rolled his right ankle in the first half. ”Tomorrow I’ll replay some plays and some moments and things of that nature. When I wake up Friday morning I’ll be locked in on the game plan of what needs to be done to help our team win. That’s just who I am.”
Golden State will now have four chances to wrap up its title starting with Game 4 on Friday night. The Warriors are trying to join a select list of teams to win three championships in four years.
Kevin Love added 20 points for the Cavs, who have fallen into a hole in 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 a different supporting cast.
The Warriors won despite a 3-of-16 shooting performance from Curry, who did come up big down the stretch as the Cavs were trying to salvage their season.
Now Cleveland could be down to one final game with James, who recorded his 10th triple-double in the finals. The three-time champion can opt out of his $35.6 million contract and test free agency this summer, and it may be time for the 33-year-old to find a team capable of beating the Warriors.
These Cavs can’t figure it out.
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 start. He helped offset a rough night for Curry, who made a finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2 Sam Martin Jersey , 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 specialist Andre Iguodala, who didn’t play in Games 1 or 2 because of a knee injury, came up with a steal under the basket. Curry finally buried a 3 and after James matched him with a long shot, Iguodala drove the lane for a thundering dunk.
Moments later, Durant delivered his dagger to silence Cleveland’s crowd.
”No, that wasn’t the same shot,” James said when asked to compare Durant’s 3 to last year’s. ”The one he made tonight was about four or five feet behind the one he made last year. He’s an assassin. That was one of those assassin plays right there.”
Durant scored 24 in the first half, when the Warriors attempted 13 free throws to zero for the Cavs, a disparity that induced further wrath on the officials from Cleveland fans still stinging from the now infamous reversed call in Game 1.
James arrived at 6 p.m. dressed more casually – camouflage pants, purple hoodie, ”Billionaire Boys Club” baseball cap – than on the road where he and the Cavs have been wearing suits during the postseason.
Everything is more relaxed and familiar at home for James and his teammates, who were counting on a return to their own noisy building, where they play better and shoot better, to get them back into the series.
The Warriors had other plans.
Warriors: Green passed Wilt Chamberlain (922) for the most rebounds in Warriors playoff history. … Klay Thompson played in his NBA-high 390th game over the last four seasons. Green is second with 387, while James is third at 381. … Curry has made a 3-pointer in 89 consecutive playoff games, and a record 43 on the road.
Cavaliers: Kyle Korver continued to struggle. He missed all four shots and is now 8 of 29 dating to Game 1 of last year’s Finals. … James (238) broke a tie with Kareem Abdul-Jab The Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired Jason Pierre-Paul to bolster an anemic pass rush. However, the former New York Giants star wants to be a lot more than a one-dimensional player.
The two-time Pro Bowl end believes he can be part of the solution to a leaky run defense, too, in addition to stalking opposing quarterbacks.
”I want everybody to know that I’m still capable of playing the run,” the 29-year-old said. ”They already know I can play the pass. But if you can’t stop the run, there is no pass rush.”
The Bucs traded for Pierre-Paul in March after having one of the NFL’s least-effective defenses a year ago, when they went 5-11 and ranked last in passing and total yards allowed, as well as sacks with 22.
The team hasn’t had a player with 10 or more sacks in a season since Simeon Rice had 14 in 2005.
The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Pierre-Paul had 58 1/2 sacks in eight seasons with the Giants Adidas Shea Weber Jersey , including a career-best 16 1/2 in 2001 and 12 1/2 in 2014.
He hasn’t come close to posting double-digit sack totals since suffering a serious hand injury in a Fourth of July fireworks accident three years ago. Still, his numbers have improved each season from one in eight games in 2015 to seven in 2016 and 8 1/2 in 2017.
The Bucs feel Pierre-Paul, who played in college locally at South Florida, is an ideal fit for what they want to do with a revamped defensive line also featuring Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy, offseason acquisitions Beau Allen, Vinny Curry and Mitch Unrein, and first-round draft pick Vita Vea.
Coach Dirk Koetter likes what he’s seen in training camp.
”Just a real impressive veteran player that’s willing to share with the younger guys,” Koetter said. ”His ability to work in the heat – sometimes those veteran players don’t want to come out and work as hard as we ask them to in training camp, but he’s been out front all the way.”
Like Pierre-Paul, the coach believes the ninth-year pro is versatile enough to help the Bucs slow opponents on the ground, as well as through the air.
”When we played (the Giants) last year, just from our standpoint, we probably feared him more in the running game than we did in the pass game.” Koetter said.
”That’s not a downgrade to him because we see good pass rushers every week,” the coach added, ”but a lot of those speed rushers can’t play the run. I mean, he’s 280 pounds.”
Pierre-Paul won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2011, while Allen and Curry signed with Tampa Bay in free agency after being part of a deep line rotation that helped Philadelphia win it all last season.
The Bucs are counting on them to bring a championship mentality to a team that’s missed the playoffs 10 straight seasons – the second-longest drought in the league.
”It’s been great. We just keep creating chemistry out there. Everybody pass-rushes differently; everybody plays the run different,” Pierre-Paul said.
”As veterans on the team, we’re teaching the young guys how to come up and how to do things correctly,” he added. ”We were all once in their position, so we are (building) great chemistry together. That’s a great start for us.”
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