Golden State Warriors finish with 11 unanswered points to stun Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of NBA finals
With their season on the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers turned in a superlative performance before a rollicking home crowd.
It simply wasnt enough against one of the best teams in NBA history.
The Golden State Warriors scored the games final 11 points over the last three minutes to erase a six-point deficit and stun the defending champions with a 118-113 victory in Game 3 of the NBA finals on Wednesday night, taking a commanding three-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven championship series.
We got stops when we needed them, said Kevin Durant, who finished with a team-high 31 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 45 seconds left that silenced the Quicken Loans Arena crowd.
Added Durant, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter: Weve got one more win, weve got to keep going. We cant win this thing unless we do it together.
Klay Thompson had 30 points for the Warriors, Stephen Curry added 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
The Warriors, who have now won 30 of their last 31 games stretching back to the regular season, improved to 15-0 in the playoffs and are one win away from the first ever undefeated postseason, say nothing of a second championship in three years.
The 15 consecutive playoff wins surpasses the Pittsburgh Penguins (1992-93) for the most postseason wins in a row among the other North American professional sports, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
LeBron James had 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Cavaliers, finishing one assist short of a record-breaking ninth career playoff triple double, while Kyrie Irving added 38 points.
But they couldnt hold off the relentless Warriors during the final minutes, with Durant depositing the long-range coup de grce over James outstretched arm. The sports best player, as it turned out, was no match for its best team.
I said it after we won the Eastern Conference finals that were getting ready for a juggernaut, James said afterward. Its probably the most, most firepower Ive played (against) in my career. I played against some great teams, but I dont think no team has had this type of firepower.
So even when youre playing well, you got to play like A-plus-plus, because theyre going to make runs and theyre going to make shots and they got guys thats going to make plays. So we made enough plays tonight to still win the ball game, but they made a couple more.
After Irvings missed three-pointer on Clevelands last full possession, four Golden State free throws closed the show. And just like that, the Cavaliers title defense is all but finished: no team has ever rallied from a three-games-to-none deficit to win the NBA finals.
Theyre 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.
Added Warriors coach Steve Kerr: Overall, it was just an incredibly tough, resilient performance. It wasnt our smartest game that we have played all year, but it was maybe our toughest in terms of our ability to just hang in there.
The Warriors no doubt expected Clevelands best shot in the early stages given the stakes and they got it. James pumped in 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the first quarter, including a thunderous dunk in transition over Durant and JaVale McGee.
He was aided by JR Smith, who had not made a shot in only five attempts over the previous 95 minutes of game action, but added a pair of three-pointers in the opening frame.
But when James went to the bench for a breather, the Warriors rattled off 10 straight points to extend a 39-32 lead at the end of the quarter. Cleveland was shooting 61.1% from the floor and LeBron was off to a sizzling start, yet the Warriors were still leading by seven.
Both teams cooled after their torrid start, though James at times singlehandedly kept the Cavaliers within touching distance of the Warriors manifold attack. By the time LeBron scored on a spectacular left-handed reverse layup to win a one-on-one matchup with Durant and close Golden States lead to 46-45 with seven minutes left in the half, the Cleveland superstar had posted 23 points more than half Clevelands total on 10-for-11 shooting.
The Cavaliers had faded badly after half-time in the opening two games, but instead on Wednesday surged ahead behind more sensational play from James. That carried over into the fourth quarter, where they led 113-107 with three minutes left.
Now the Warriors will look to finish the series, and their bid for a perfect postseason, in Friday nights Game 4, a markedly shorter turnaround after no less than three-day breaks before the opening three games.
I think well all be fine, Thompson said. This is the most minutes I think we played all year between me, Steph, and Kevin. And Coach Kerrs done a great job managing our minutes. And we know whats at stake, and thats an NBA title.
So we wont be tired because we got adrenaline on our side and we got to act like this is a do-or-die situation. We dont want to go back to the Bay and win it; we want to finish it here and forget this game quickly and lock in tomorrow morning and get ready for a battle on Friday.