Wrap-Up — In the first two Finals meetings between these two teams, if the Cavaliers had held Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to 21 combined points, they’d have been planning on evening the series on Friday after a Game 3 win on Wednesday.
But the Warriors have a guy by the name of Kevin Durant who’s there to pick up the slack when the Splash Brothers dry up – and the reigning Finals MVP went off for a game-high 43 points as the Warriors worked their way past the Wine & Gold after intermission, taking the 110-102 win and pushing Cleveland to the brink of elimination.
Playing at home for the first time in almost two weeks, the Cavaliers jumped on Golden State early – opening up 12-point leads in both the first and second quarters. But the Warriors closed each period with a run that got them right back into striking distance.
Golden State tied the game at 61-apiece early in the second stanza on JaVale McGee’s dunk and it was the Cavaliers who found themselves in a dogfight for the remainder of the night.
Kevin Love gave the Cavaliers a one-point edge on his second free throw with 3:11 to play in regulation. But Curry scored on a layup on the Dubs’ next possession and followed that up with his only triple of the night to put Golden State up four – 101-97. LeBron James drilled a three-pointer of his own to get Cleveland back to within one.
But after an Andre Iguodala dunk, Durant canned a 33-footer to put the Warriors up six – 108-102 – with under a minute to play. Curry’s two free throws with 11 seconds remaining provided the game’s final score.
”We played well – they made some runs, we made some runs, and just K.D. had an exceptional night,” lamented Coach Lue. “But I thought our guys did a great job of fighting and sticking to the game plan outside of a couple breakdowns here and there. To hold Steph to 11 and Klay to 10, we did a good job in that regard. But we’ve got to do a better job on K.D.”
LeBron James led the Wine & Gold with 33 points on 13-for-28 shooting – tallying his 10th career Finals triple-double in the process, leading both teams with 11 assists to go with 10 boards, two steals and a pair of blocked shots.
Through the first three games of the series, the four-time MVP is averaging 37.7 points, 10.7 assists and 9.0 boards per.
Kevin Love doubled-up for the third time in three games – netting 15 of his 20 points before half, going 6-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-7 from long-distance and 5-of-5 from the stripe, adding a team-high 13 boards, three assists and a steal.
JR Smith was the third Cavalier starter to tally double-figures but, like Love, did most of his damage early – tallying 10 of his 13 points before intermission, going 3-of-10 from long-range, 5-of-14 from the floor overall to go with a game-high three steals.
One hugely positive development from Game 3 was the play of Rodney Hood – who hadn’t seen meaningful minutes since the Conference Semifinals and got an extended run on Wednesday, finishing with 15 points in 25 minutes of work off the bench, going 7-of-11 from the floor to go with six boards and a pair of blocks.
Kevin Durant was almost unstoppable in Game 3 – going 15-of-23 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and a perfect 7-of-7 from the line, adding 13 boards, seven assists and a steal in the victory.
Despite all four other Warrior starters netting double-figures, none finished with more than 11 points. Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 7-for-27 from the floor, with JaVale McGee and Draymond Green finishing with 10 points apiece. Rookie Jordan Bell also added 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes off the bench.
”They have a number of guys that can bail their team out on any play, any game, any possession, and (Durant) was — he’s been that for them a number of times,” said Kevin Love. “Defenses try to plan for him, but when you’re 6-11 and you’re shooting a lazy pull-up on the left wing from 27 feet, that’s pretty tough to guard.”
Golden State shot 52 percent from the floor, but neither team was sharp from long-distance – each canning nine triples on the night. The Cavaliers didn’t attempt a free throw before halftime, but those numbers evened out over the final 24 minutes.
Once again, the Cavaliers held a distinct rebounding advantage, 47-37, and outscored Golden State on second-chance opportunities, 19-9. But the Warriors handed out seven more assists and outran the Wine & Gold on the break, 19-11.
Turning Point — There were eight ties and 11 lead-changes in the second half of Game 3, but the contest might actually have been decided before the Red Panda Acrobat ever rolled her unicycle out for halftime.
The Cavaliers came out ready to rumble on Wednesday night, jumping out to a 16-4 lead and working the sold-out crowd into a frenzy. But Golden State went on a 14-4 run to tie the contest at 26-apiece. Cleveland would lead by just a point after that first quarter.
Tyronn Lue’s squad found their rhythm again in the second and took another 12-point edge with five minutes to play before half. But the Warriors proceeded to close the opening stanza on a 10-4 run – getting to within six at the break and eventually taking the lead in the third quarter.
By the Numbers – 110 … Playoff games in which LeBron James has scored at least 30 points – moving him past Michael Jordan for most in NBA history. James has now posted 10 triple-doubles in the Finals – tops all-time, with Magic Johnson’s eight as runner-up.
Quotable – LeBron James, whether the Warriors seem vulnerable in the series …
”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. No matter — everyone gets so caught up on saying they’re vulnerable or they’re not playing so well, and then they go down 3-2, and then they go to somebody else’s floor and win. Or they win at home and send it back to somebody else’s floor and win in a Game 7. That’s what championship teams do.”
Up Next — The Wine & Gold will try to extend their season on Friday night when they play Game 4 at The Q. If they’re able to do so, it’s back to Oakland for Game 5 the following Monday (6/11) with Game 6 back in The Land on Thursday night (6/14). Should the Finals reach the limit, Game 7 tips off the following Sunday, June 17 at 8 p.m. at Oracle Arena.