The Cleveland Cavaliers came into the third game of the NBA Finals in a dispiriting but familiar position after two Golden State blowouts. Last year, that led to one of the most stunning comebacks in NBA history
That remained a possibility the entire game Wednesday night — until the closing minutes, when the Warriors ripped the Cavaliers’ hearts out. Now Cleveland, which last year became the first team to recover from a 3-1 Finals deficit, faces historically long odds again.
Golden State closed the game in Cleveland on an 11-0 run to win 118-113, with perhaps no basket bigger than Kevin Durant’s transition three-pointer over LeBron James with 45 seconds left. That gave the Warriors a lead they held the rest of the way.
“I’ve been working on that shot my whole life, and for that one to go in, that’s liberating,” the forward told ESPN’s Doris Goodwin after the game.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that Durant has played with purpose throughout the series.
“You can tell, he knows this is his moment,” Kerr said. “He’s been an amazing player in this league for a long time, and I think he senses this is his moment, his team.”
Durant finished 31 points and eight rebounds, with guard Klay Thompson adding 30 points in a breakout performance after two weak games to start the series. Point guard Steph Curry scored 26 points and led the team in rebounding with 13.
The Warriors’ turnover problems from Game 2 carried over to Wednesday night, when they had 18, which helped the Cavaliers stay in the game.
Cleveland was led by James with 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Point guard Kyrie Irving added 38 points, though he missed all seven of his three-point shots. Forward Kevin Love went 1-9 from the field, including 1-7 from three, but did have six steals. Starting center Tristan Thompson went scoreless for the second time in the series.
Friday night in Cleveland (9 p.m. ET, ABC) both teams will have an unprecedented goal in mind. For the Warriors, a win will make them the first NBA team to get through the playoffs with four series sweeps, 16-0. For the Cavaliers, a win would be the first step toward becoming the first NBA team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Finals.