CLEVELAND — The motto throughout the playoffs for the Cavaliers has been “Whatever It Takes” to survive, advance and win a title.
Well, right about now, it’s going to take something like Michael, Magic, Larry and Wilt in their primes to keep the Cavs afloat.
In an eerie replay of last year, Kevin Durant again delivered a long dagger 3-point shot that capped off his personal playoff career-high 43 points that led the Warriors to a 110-102 NBA Finals Game 3 victory and pushed the Cavs into a suffocating 3-0 ditch. The Warriors, who saw Durant add 13 rebounds and seven assists, can complete the series sweep Friday. No team ever has rallied from 0-3 in any NBA playoff series.
In Game 3 last year, Durant nailed a 26-footer that put the Warriors up one. This time, he hit from 33 feet and put the Warriors up 106-100 with 49.8 seconds left.
“Different game, different season. I mean different feel,” said Durant who shot 15-of-23 and scored 24 points before halftime to keep the Cavs within striking distance.
“Kevin was the story in the first half, just keeping us in the game, then he was the story in the second half as well, just closing it out,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
“He’s an assassin,” said LeBron James, whose triple-double (33 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) wasn’t enough.
When Durant nailed this year’s shot, teammate Draymond Green (10 points, nine assists) started whooping in his face, but the 7-footer stayed calm.
“Don’t get me wrong, every time I make a shot in the NBA I get excited. I just internalize,” Durant said. “But at the same time I knew the game wasn’t over.”
Oh it was over.
The Cavs have to be asking themselves what they must do to beat these guys.
“The margin of error against these guys is so little,” said Cavs forward Kevin Love (20 points, 13 rebounds). “In some cases, you have to be almost perfect.
“We know that we’re capable,” Love said of trying to win four straight. “We just have to come out Friday night and not give in.”
They got the triple-double from James. They whipped the Warriors on the boards (47-37). They got contributions from others: Love, J.R. Smith (13 points) and surprisingly Rodney Hood (15 points). They led by 13 in the first half.
Plus Stephen Curry was as bad shooting as he was good in his record-setting Game 2 performance when he hit an NBA Finals record nine 3s. Curry (11 points) missed his first nine 3s in this one. But when he hit his 10th, it was a killer. He fired it in with 2:33 left and put the Warriors up 101-97. Running mate Klay Thompson shot 4-of-11.
“A crazy night,” Curry said. “The last two years I’ve been playing alongside Kevin Durant. He’s an amazing talent, an amazing player. Tonight was not my night, it was his night.”
“This is the beauty of this team and the luxury that we have of having multiple big-time scorers,” Kerr said. “There’s going to be nights like this for all of them. Steph was 3-for-16, [1-for-10 on 3s], but as usual he hit a big one. He always finds a way to make big plays even on his toughest nights.”
The Warriors, who got Andre Iguodala back from injury in time for him to contribute late, needed every Durant stat. Despite him sailing over 40 in the fourth quarter, the Warriors led only by one at a timeout with 3:11 left and then Love put the Cavs up one with a pair of free throws.
But Curry scored on a drive then bagged his 3 to offset a James triple. Iguodala drove and dunked and after a shot, Durant wound up from 33 feet.
Just like last year.
And the Cavs were down 0-3.
Just like last year.
“At the end of the day, if you want to compete for a championship or win a championship, you’ve got to go through the champion, and they’re the champion,” James said.
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