CLEVELAND, United States, Jun 8 – Kevin Durant scored 31 points, seven of them in the closing minutes, and the Golden State Warriors beat Cleveland 118-113 Wednesday, seizing command of the NBA Finals and extending their undefeated playoff run in dramatic fashion.
The Warriors scored the last 11 points to stretch their record playoff win streak this season to 15-0 and grabbed a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Golden State, which also had 30 points from Klay Thompson and 26 from Stephen Curry, would become the first team in NBA history to make an unbeaten playoff run to the crown by winning game four on Friday in Cleveland.
No team in NBA playoff history has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, although the Cavaliers did become the first team in NBA Finals history to rally from a 3-1 hole to swipe the crown over Golden State last year.
The Warriors, already on the longest playoff win streak in NBA history, set the North American sports playoff win streak mark with their 15th consecutive triumph, moving past the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins’ 14-game run from the 1992 and 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs.
LeBron James scored 39 points and Kyrie Irving added 38 to lead the Cavaliers.
Cleveland’s J.R. Smith sank a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers a 113-107 lead, but the Warriors scored 11 points in the final 2:20 for the fightback triumph.
Durant, seeking his first career title after joining the Warriors from Oklahoma City last July, and Curry scored on drives to the hoop to pull Golden State within two.
– Key 3-pointer –
Durant then followed a Kyle Korver 3-pointer miss for Cleveland with a tension-packed 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that put the Warriors ahead 114-113.
“That was liberating right there,” Durant said of his dramatic 3-pointer that lifted the Warriors ahead to stay.
“All I was looking at was the bottom of the net and I made sure my feet were behind the 3-point line.”
Irving missed an off-balance 3-pointer and Durant and Curry each made two free throws on the next Golden State possessions to seal Cleveland’s fate.
“We just wanted to hang around,” Durant said. “We settled down and got some stops at the end.”
A 10-0 Cleveland run early in the third quarter brought the Cavaliers their first lead of the finals beyond the opening quarter, Kevin Love’s 3-pointer closing the spurt to put the hosts ahead 71-69.
Irving netted 16 points in the third and instead of falling well back as they had in the third periods of both prior games, the Cavs outscored Golden State 33-22 and seized their biggest edge so far in the finals, up 94-89 after three quarters.
James had 27 first-half points and Irving 17, but no one else had more than six for the Cavs.
Klay Thompson led Golden State with 21 points in the first half, sinking 5-of-7 from 3-point range, while Durant added 16 and Curry 14 off 4-of-6 3-point shooting.
Golden State sank an NBA Finals record nine 3-pointers in the first quarter, four of them by Thompson, who scored 16 points in the opening period.
James went 7-of-8 from the floor for 16 points in the first quarter, but when he went to the bench late in the period the Warriors closed it with a 10-0 run to lead 39-32, Curry sinking two 3-pointers in the spurt.
Thompson and Curry sank back-to-back 3-pointers late in the second quarter to boost the Warriors lead, but Irving’s inside bank shot pulled Cleveland within 67-61 at half-time.