Down two with under a minute left, Kevin Durant grabbed the rebound off of a Kyle Korver missed three. Dribbled across half court and walked into a 26-foot three-point dagger into the Cavs hopes of winning game three of this series.
“All I was looking at was the bottom of the net and I saw his (LeBron) heels were behind the three-point line and I’ve been working on that shot my whole life,” said Durant. “For that one to go in, that was liberating right there.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers were up 113-107 with three minutes and nine seconds left after a J.R. Smith three-pointer. After some missed jumpers by both teams, Stephen Curry made a basket that would spark the 11-0 run the Warriors would use to take game three in exciting fashion.
With their backs against the walls, the Cavs came into game three ready to fight back and win one on their home court. LeBron got off to another hot start, but it was clear early on they wanted to get Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith back on track. Having both players run off screens trying to get open, which led to two three-pointers for Smith his first field goals since game one.
The next goal on offense was to have Curry switch on to either LeBron or Kyrie and take advantage of his less than stellar defense. Many of these positions led to clear looks in the paint or a foul.
On defense, the goal was to make sure Curry did not heat up from downtown. The Cavs would send double teams every time a pick was set and force Curry’s teammates to make plays.
Klay Thompson was one of those teammates who were able to pick up the slack of Curry being the Cavs main focus defensively. Thompson who mentioned he had still had another level to reach in regards to his scoring, made 4 of his 6 threes for 21 points in the first half.
“I got a couple looks early at the basket, got a couple open threes and that always helps,” said Thompson. “I’m going to carry this momentum into Friday,” he added.
The second halves of the first two games in this series have not been very competitive; the Warriors have pulled away in the second half of both games. So it was imperative for the Cavs to come out of halftime ready to fight, and boy were they.
Kyrie Irving looked like a man possessed in the third quarter. Using his great handles and his collection of dribble moves Kyrie got to the basket and was able to score 16 points in the third. Giving LeBron a break and also giving the Cavs their first lead in the second half of any game this series.
“This guy’s (Kyrie) one of the best players in the league for a reason,” said Warriors Coach Steve Kerr. “He’s probably the best finishing guards in the league. We knew at home he was going to play better.”
As the fourth quarter rolled around it was clear Kyrie and LeBron would try and win this game on their own. But with such little help, it was clear both of them were feeling fatigued and could have used some help from Kevin Love and the rest of the team when the Warriors defense ramped up.
“Both those guys (LeBron and Kyrie) were amazing 38 (points) and 39. But that takes a lot out of you,” said Coach Kerr. “We just kept telling the guys, they’re going to get tired.”
Golden State in the last three minutes was able to keep both LeBron and Kyrie out of the paint and force them to pass up some shots. Allowing Kevin Durant to take over down the stretch.
Durant has now scored 25+ points in eight straight NBA Finals games going back to his first appearance in 2011. But no point was bigger than the shot he will remember for the rest of his life if they go on to win the title.
Game four is set for Friday @ 9:00 p.m. where the Cavs will look to avoid being swept and force a game five.