Common NBA wisdom dictates that role players benefit the most from playing at home.
That idiom held true in large part for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, but it still wasn’t enough to fend off the seemingly unstoppable firepower of the Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Durant almost single-handedly beats Cavs
Behind a monster game from Kevin Durant, the Warriors overcame Cleveland’s most balanced effort of the series along with poor shooting nights from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals with an 110-102 win.
The Cavs opened up strong, working to get Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson involved. All three scored before LeBron James did as the Cavs opened a 16-4 lead.
And when James did get his first bucket. Man, oh man.
The Cavs weren’t the one-man team they often seem to be in the first half, with James, Smith and Love all scoring in double digits as Love led the way with 15 points to go with 10 first-half rebounds. The effort to spread the ball around was concerted as James logged nine first-half assists.
Meanwhile, the Warriors were off. Curry and Thompson continually drew iron with their jump shots, combining for seven points on 3-of-15 shooting with just one 3-pointer between them. The Cavs’ lead dwindled when they went to their bench, but Cleveland looked in its zone holding a 58-49 lead with the second-quarter clock winding down.
While his fellow All-Stars struggled, Kevin Durant thrived on the road with a dominant performance to lead the Warriors to a commanding 3-0 NBA Finals lead. (AP)
Then Durant happened. The Warriors All-World forward popped up with 0.8 seconds remaining in quarter to hit a deep 3-pointer and cut Cleveland’s halftime lead to six while giving the Cavs and their home crowd something to think during the break.
And Durant happened all night. Whether pulling up open from 26 feet or shooting with a hand in his face, Durant was unstoppable from distance and appeared intent on throwing his hat in the ring for Finals MVP honors. He finished with a playoff career-high 43 points to go with 13 rebounds and seven assists, including hitting 6-of-9 3-pointers.
Led by Durant, the Warriors did what they do in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavs 31-23 to take an 83-81 lead heading into the fourth. Aside from Rodney Hood, who came out firing after being buried on the bench the first two games, Cavs players not named James who thrived in the first half shrunk. After his 15 and 10 first half, Love finished the game with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
LeBron James’ triple-double not enough
James did yeoman’s work. He logged another triple-double with 33 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. But there were no late-game heroics this time like we’ve seen so many times in these playoffs.
Smith finally made somewhat of an impact on the game, scoring 13 on 3-of-10 shooting from distance. Hood, meanwhile, made the most of his release from the bench, scoring 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds in 26 minutes.
The Cavs kept the game close through most of the fourth quarter. But in the end, the Warriors were the Warriors. Curry finally found his stroke from distance, hitting his only 3-pointer of the game to extend Golden State’s lead to 101-97 with just under three minutes remaining.
A Durant dagger from more than 30 feet sealed the deal, giving the Warriors a 106-100 lead in the final minute, seemingly sealing the fate of these NBA Finals.
Warriors win despite poor showing from Curry, Thompson
All five Warriors starters scored in double digits, but aside from Durant, none surpassed 11 points. Curry was mostly dismal, hitting 1-of-10 3-point attempts and 3-of-16 field goals to notch 11 points to go with six assists and five rebounds.
Thompson was’t much better, posting 10 points, four rebounds and two assists. Meanwhile, Draymond Green logged 10 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two rebounds.
It goes to show just how devastating this Warriors team is. They were able to win Wednesday on Cleveland’s home court despite terrible games from two bonafide NBA superstars while taking on the best player on the planet. There just isn’t going to be a night when at least one of their stars is on.
Golden State appeared to be a team Cleveland couldn’t compete with before the series started. Three games in, nothing on that front has changed.