With the weight of the Warriors on his back, Kevin Durant delivers Playoff Career-High 43 Points in 110-104 Game Three Win
After taking a commanding 2-0 lead at home in Games One and Two, the Golden State Warriors (14-5) flew to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-7) in Game Three of the NBA Finals. The Warriors were looking to mount an insurmountable lead in the NBA Finals by winning Game Three, and they were adding a familiar face back into the fold to help them get a win. That familiar face was Andre Iguodala, who was making his return to the lineup after missing the last six postseason games with a bone bruise in his leg. The Cavaliers were hoping for another heroic effort from LeBron James similar to his performance in Game One to help set them up for a chance to even the series. The Warriors went on to win Game Three 110-104.
Kevin Love opened the first quarter by drilling a three, and on the Cavaliers second possession of the game, JR Smith nailed his first three. The Warriors were able to score on their first possessions as well, and they did so on Draymond Green free throws and a JaVale McGee dunk. They did not score on any more possessions before Steve Kerr called timeout. The Cavaliers were piling it on early, as JR Smith and Kevin Love were both able to get easy shots to fall around the hoop, Tristan Thompson had a layup, and LeBron James threw himself an alley-oop off the backboard to himself. The Cavaliers looked like they were ready to play, and after the first four minutes, they led 14-4 and forced an early timeout from the Warriors. The Warriors got going after the timeout on a mid range jumper from Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green then threw down a fast break slam. Stephen Curry then made a beautiful pass to Andre Iguodala for the slam after a couple minutes of bad basketball from both teams. JR Smith then got a tough layup to fall, but Kevin Durant answered on the other end with an easy putback. The Cavaliers then got a putback of their own to fall before Stephen Curry rushed by Kevin Love for the easy layup. The layup forced Ty Lue to call a timeout with 3:38 left in the quarter and the Cavaliers leading 22-14. During those two minutes of bad basketball mentioned earlier, the Warriors picked up several questionable fouls, and Draymond Green and Tristan Thompson got double technicals for trash talking each other. Durant got the first points for either team after the timeout on two free throws, which Larry Nance Jr. promptly responded to with an easy layup. Klay Thompson then made the first three of the game for the Warriors. Kevin Durant then drilled a three on the next possession to bring the Warriors within two points of the Cavs. LeBron then got a layup to fall before Shaun Livingston got a signature baseline jumper to fall. Kevin Durant proceeded to shake Jeff Green out of his shoes before drilling a midrange jumper to tie the game, but Jeff Green un-tied the game with a corner three. The quarter ended with kevin Durant knocking down two free throws to get the Warriors within one point. Durant was incredible in the beginning of the game, going 4/4 for 13 points, and grabbing all seven of the Warriors rebounds. JR Smith and Kevin Love were the leading scorers for the Cavaliers with seven points each, and LeBron James added six points of his own. After the first quarter, the Cavaliers led the Warriors 29-28.
LeBron James got the second quarter started with a putback on a third-chance opportunity, which Rodney Hood (!!!) followed up with an elbow jumper. LeBron then got a transition layup to fall off the glass, and the Warriors were unable to score in the first 2:40 of the second quarter. Steve Kerr called timeout with 9:20 left in the half and the Cavaliers leading the Warriors 35-28. Jordan Bell threw down a dunk after the timeout for the Warriors first points of the quarter, which LeBron answered to with a bucket before Shaun Livingston got a layup to fall. JR smith hit another three before Jordan Bell threw down a lob from Draymond. LeBron then forced another timeout from Steve Kerr with another tough layup to put the Cavaliers up 42-34 with 6:40 remaining in the half. Jordan Bell scored the first point after the timeout with a free throw after getting fouled on a lob. Kevin Love got the Cavaliers going once more with a three at the shot clock buzzer, and on the next possession he got a tough shot to fall after grabbing an offensive rebounds. Kevin Durant then nailed two free throws before throwing a perfect pass to a cutting Klay Thompson for a layup. In between those two plays, Kevin Love made a deep three. Kevin Durant made another three after the Cavaliers had a shot-clock violation. There was then a comedy of errors that resulted in Stephen Curry and Draymond Green picking up their third fouls and the Cavaliers maintaining their lead. Kevin Durant then had an explosion at the end of the half to get the Warriors right back into the thick of things. He scored six-straight points for the Warriors to cut the lead to just six points. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 49.1% from the floor and 42.9% from three in the first half, and the Warriors shot just 43.9% from the floor and 28.6% from three. Kevin Durant was the game’s leading scorer at the half with 24 points on 7/10 shooting, and he also grabbed eight rebounds. He was the only player to show up for the Warriors in the first half. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for seven points on 3/15 shooting. Kevin Love was leading the Cavaliers with 15 points, LeBron had 14, and JR Smith had 10 points. The Cavaliers were killing the Warriors on the glass in the first half, out-rebounding them 28-16. At the half, the Cavaliers led the Warriors 58-52.
JaVale McGee got the third quarter started by throwing down a lob from Draymond Green. LeBron James then got an and-1 runner to fall before JaVale McGee got a tough shot to fall from under the hoop before Kevin Durant nailed his first three of the half. JaVale McGee then continued his quick burst by dropping in a layup to tie the game at 61 and force Ty Lue to call a timeout with 10:13 left in the third. Stephen Curry then got two free throws to fall after the timeout to keep the run going. Kevin Love then got a technical free throw to fall after a three-in-the-key from JaVale McGee, and Tristan Thompson followed that up with a tough reverse and-1 layup to take the lead back. He missed the free throw after the layp, which led to a JaVale McGee bucket on the other end. Kevin Durant then got a layup to fall to regain their three-point lead, which was extended to five on an easy layup by Draymond Green. The bucket from Draymond forced another timeout from Ty Lue with 7:44 left in the third and the Warriors winning 69-64. LeBron got a layup to fall for the first points after the timeout, and George Hill then tied the game on the next possession with a three, but Kevin Durant drilled a three to un tie the game once more. JR Smith answered back with a three of his own before Klay Thompson drilled a three in transition. Draymond Green then got an easy dunk because the Cavaliers forgot he existed, and Tristan Thompson responded to that with a hookshot. Kevin Durant then hit a fadeaway over George Hill for his 34th points of the game. Kevin Love then made two free throws before Rodney Hood got a mid range jumper to fall. Steve Kerr called timeout following the Hood jumper with 2:39 left in the third and the Warriors winning 79-78. Kevin Durant came out of the timeout and made a gorgeous pass to Shaun Livingston for an easy dunk. LeBron then muscled his way to the hoop fro an easy bucket before Klay Thompson drove past JR Smith for an easy layup. The Cavaliers only got one more point in the quarter on a free throw from Rodney Hood, but the Warriors did not score for the rest of the quarter. As a team, the Cavaliers finished the third quarter shooting 47.2% from the floor and 33.3% from three, while the Warriors shot 49.2% from the floor and 35% from three. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 34 points on 11/17 shooting, while also grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out five assists. LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 21 points, and Kevin Love was right behind him with 18 points. After the third quarter, the Warriors led the Cavaliers 83-81.
Rodney Hood got a tough shot to fall to open the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers, and Jordan Bell quickly responded with an easy layup. Bell then got fouled while trying to throw down an ambitious dunk, but he went 1/2 from the line to get the lead up to three points. LeBron then nailed two free throws before Rodney Hood got a shot to fall. Kevin Durant, who is not a fan of the Cavaliers having leads, then drilled an elbow jumper. Larry Nance Jr. then went 1/2 from the line, but Shaun Livingston went 1/1 on a mid range jumper to respond. Rodney Hood then used a beautiful spin move on Shaun Livingston before getting a shot to fall, but Kevin Durant answered with a fadeaway midrange jumper. LeBron then drew a foul and went 1/2 from the line, and scored the game’s next points on a tough shot over Draymond Green. Andre Iguodala then got a quick layup to re-take the lead after the LeBron bucket. Iguodala’s layup forced a timeout from Ty Lue with 6:04 left and the Warriors winning 94-93. LeBron James drew a foul and went 2/2 from the line for the Cavaliers’ first points after the timeout, but Kevin Durant answered back with a perfect mid range jumper over Kevin Love for his 40th points of the game. Timeout was then called following a turnover from Kevin Durant, which wasn’t actually a turnover, but the refs thought Durant went out of bounds. The timeout was called with 3:19 left in the game and he Warriors leading 96-95. Kevin Love drew a non-foul coming out of the timeout and went 2/2 from the line to get the Cavaliers a lead, but Stephen Curry answered back with a layup while being hugged by Rodney Hood. Stephen Curry was then left wide-open in transition and nailed his first three pointer of the game after going 0/9 from beyond the arc. LeBron James then nailed a three to make it a one-point game once again. Andre Iguodala responded with a powerful slam before Kevin Durant drilled a 30-footer to give the Warriors a six-point lead, forcing a Cavaliers timeout with less than a minute left. LeBron then got a layup to fall before Draymond Green threw down a slam to force another timeout from Ty Lue with 25 seconds left. At the time of the timeout, the Warriors led the Cavaliers 108-102. Stephen Curry then made a couple free throws in garbage time as the Warriors hung on to beat the Cavaliers, 110-102.
Kevin Durant was incredible in Game Three, and had the best playoff game of his career. He scored a playoff career-high 43 points on a stupidly efficient 15/23 shooting. He also grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out seven assists. You cannot say enough about his performance tonight, as he demolished the Cavaliers in Game Three for the second-straight year. He even hit the dagger shot from the same spot on the court. He was the only one of the Warriors core four players who had a truly great game. Stephen Curry finished with just 11 points on 3/16 shooting, and went just 1/10 from three. He did grab five boards and dish out six assists, and the one three that he did make came at a crucial time for the Warriors in the fourth quarter. Klay Thompson had just 10 points on 4/11 shooting, and was 2/5 from three. Draymond Green had 10 points and nine assists and JaVale McGee had 10 points, but the biggest, and most important secondary scoring came from the Warriors bench. Jordan Bell had 10 points, Andre Iguodala, who was clearly not feeling 100%, had eight points, and Shaun Livingston was great once again, adding eight points on 4/5 shooting. As a team, the Warriors finished the game shooting 51.9% from the floor and 34.6% from three. They only committed 10 turnovers, which is fairly impressive, and they have been pretty good with their turnovers all series, after they plagued them for the rest of the year.
LeBron James finished with 33 points on 13/28 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out 11 assists, got two steals, and blocked two shots. He got his 10th career triple-double in the NBA Finals, which is the most in history. That being said, it felt like this game was pretty pedestrian in terms of what LeBron has done all postseason, and that is simply ridiculous and is a testament to how great he is. LeBron got a lot more help than he normally does tonight, and that was due to a couple great performances from guys like Kevin Love and Rodney Hood (!!!). Kevin Love had 20 points on 6/13 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds. Rodney Hood emerged from his slumber/forced hibernation to score 15 points on 7/11 shooting. JR Smith had 13 points on 5/14 shooting, but to be fair, 3 of those points came in the second half. Tristan Thompson had eight points, George Hill and Larry Nance Jr. both had five, and Jeff Green had three. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 43.5% from the floor and 29% from three.
Overall, this was probably the best game in the series, and we have now had two more competitive games than I thought we would get. This game showed the true reason that the Warriors wanted Kevin Durant, they wanted someone who could step up when the shots weren’t falling for anyone else and be able to put the team on his back. He carried the load tonight, and might have snatched the Finals MVP award right out of Stephen Curry’s hands in the process.
Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals will take place on Friday, June 8, in Cleveland at 6 p.m.