CLEVELAND — The loss will stick in his gut. But Kyrie Irving will have one overriding memory of Wednesday’s NBA Finals Game 3 defeat to the Warriors.
It was not any of his 16 made baskets in a 38-point night. Wasn’t any of his misses, either.
No, it will be a shot that will stick in the mind of Cavaliers fans and players everywhere: Kevin Durant’s ultimate game-winning 3-pointer with 45.3 seconds left in the Warriors’ 118-113 victory that left Cleveland in a 3-0 Finals ditch.
“Did some great things,” said Irving, who scored 16 of his points in the third quarter when the Cavs seemingly swung the game away from the Warriors. “Came down to the stretch, and they made some big-time plays. KD comes down, hits a big 3, puts them up one, iso on the wing. I’ll probably be replaying that play for a while.
“But it definitely hurts. I’m human, as well as my teammates, and to lay it all on the line like that, you want to come out on the winning side.”
But Irving and the Cavs didn’t because of the magnificence and depth of the Warriors. Durant had 31 points, Klay Thompson had 30 and Stephen Curry scored 26. So many had been calling for the Cavs to find more support for LeBron James.
And in Game 3, no one gave more support for James than Irving.
Still, it did not matter.
Irving and James went virtually wire to wire, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr suggesting they simply got gassed. Irving waved off that notion.
“It’s the Finals,” Irvin said. “We had our horses in. Myself and Bron, eclipsed the 43-minute mark, playing pretty well, then they made some big-time plays down the stretch.”
So were they gassed?
“It didn’t look like it to me,” Durant said.
But that’s the only way to upend the Warriors.
“They’re a juggernaut of a team, do a great job of spacing out the floor, keeping a high tempo, and just made some big-time plays down the stretch,” Irving said. “You got to give credit when credit is due.”
So a lot of credit went to Irving, who fought against the taller Thompson, a brilliant defender, all game. Irving added six rebounds and three assists — he was 0-of-7 on 3s, though. But after all of it, there’s one play that will stand out above all.