The Golden State Warriors withstood the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best shot and came away with a stunning 118-113 win in Game 3 of the Finals to all but wrap up the series.
A close game throughout, Cleveland took control for most of the second half behind some inspired play by their Big 3.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving completed breathless drives to the basket for a combined 77 points while Kevin Love battled for rebounds, out-hustling the Warriors on several occasions.
A J.R. Smith three-pointer put the Cavs up 113-107 with just over three minutes to play — and suddenly it all fell apart.
The Cavs’ offence went cold, while the Warriors chipped away at the lead. Stephen Curry got an uncontested driving layup. Kevin Durant got a baby jumper after driving on Tristan Thompson, who replaced Love after Love turned his ankle. After a missed corner three from Kyle Korver on a kick-out pass from James, Durant smoothly came down and buried the dagger to give the Warriors their first lead all fourth quarter.
On the next possession, Irving isolated, settling for an ugly step-back three-pointer. He missed, concluding an 0-for-7 night from downtown, an ugly mark on an otherwise incredible offensive performance.
Then, bafflingly, the Cavs let 13 seconds run off the lock before choosing to foul Durant, who calmly sank both free throws.
Now trailing by three, the Cavs flubbed their inbounds play. The ball made its way to James, who rose for a corner three, only to ber stripped by Andre Iguodala. The Warriors recovered it, Curry hit two free throws, and the game was over.
The ending was the Warriors encapsulated. The Cavs threw haymakers in the form of circus Irving layups and gorgeous James dishes. They had the momentum and raucous crowd cheering them on. The Warriors managed just 40 second-half points before their final 11-point flurry.
But they’re never out of it. As was the case in the first two games, the Cavs couldn’t afford to go scoreless, or the Warriors would capitalise on the missed opportunities. When the Cavs couldn’t muster a basket in the final three minutes of Game 3, and the Warriors jumped on the opportunity.
The Cavs’ season is now almost a wrap. No team has ever come back from 0-3 deficit in the NBA playoffs or Finals. Last year, the Cavs managed to pull of a 3-1 comeback. This Warriors team is different, and if the Cavs couldn’t seal the deal with an inspiring effort in this one, it seems far-fetched to believe they will do in four games in a row now.
James’ face while walking off the court said it all — the Cavs let one go and their season is likely done because of it.
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