Golden State forward Kevin Durant willed the Warriors to a 110-102 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday to take a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals.
Durant’s 43 points in Game 3 were a career play-off high, papering over team-mate Steph Curry’s poor 11-point performance in Cleveland, Ohio. No other Warrior had more than 10 points.
LeBron James scored 33 points in defeat on his home court at Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers’ defence again proved unable to stop Golden State’s multi-pronged attack.
Durant added 13 rebounds and seven assists. His performance was reminiscent of James’ play-off run, in which he has shouldered the offensive burden for a Cleveland team unable to give its superstar much help.
James, his left eye still bloody from a Game 1 poke, played 47 minutes despite twisting his ankle in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers came out with energy at home, quickly taking a double digit lead and going into the locker room up 58-52 at half-time.
But the Warriors owned the second half, including a 31-23 in the third quarter.
James called Golden State “the best third quarter team in the NBA.”
“You just can’t have mistakes,” he said. “They’re not going to beat themselves.”
Cleveland did have opportunities late in the game.
The Cavaliers took a 97-96 lead when centre Kevin Love sank a pair of free throws with just over three minutes remaining.
Golden State rebuilt a 103-100 lead before Durant buried a three-pointer from two steps behind the arc with 50 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Love told reporters.
“That margin for error is so thin and so little against them that in some cases you just have to be perfect.
Durant’s game was “incredible even by his standards,” Love said.
No team has ever lost a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals.
After fumbling a chance to win Game 1 before falling in overtime and losing late in Game 3, the Cavaliers will try to stave off elimination in Game 4 on Friday in Cleveland.
“We feel like we’ve been right there,” Love said. “We just have to come out on Friday and not give in.”
James is playing in his eighth consecutive NBA Finals and the fourth in a row between Cleveland and Golden State.
The Warriors won in six games in 2015 but lost in seven games in 2016 after leading 3-1.
The Oakland team is on the verge of a second consecutive championship after their 2017 title, when they also led 3-0 before winning in five games.