Du­rant shoots down Cavs with long 3 — again

Manteca Bulletin - - Sports - TIM REYNOLDS AP Bas­ket­ball Writer

CLEVE­LAND (AP) — This was not ex­actly the same shot from Kevin Du­rant. Game 3 of the NBA Fi­nals again, yes. Left wing pull-up, yes. Back in Cleve­land, yes. Fi­nal minute again, yes. But this one was deeper than his dag­ger was a year ago — and it cut deeper as well. And on a night where Stephen Curry couldn’t shoot and Klay Thomp­son wasn’t much bet­ter, Du­rant put the Golden State War­riors on his slen­der shoul­ders and car­ried them to the brink of be­com­ing back-to-back NBA cham­pi­ons for the first time.

Du­rant’s 33-footer was the fi­nal act in his 43-point night, and the War­riors beat the Cleve­land Cava­liers 110-102 in Game 3 of the fi­nals on Wed­nes­day night to take a 3-0 lead in the ti­tle se­ries for the sec­ond straight sea­son. A year ago, his shot from a bit closer — 26 feet, of­fi­cially — put the War­riors ahead to stay in what be­came a five-point win. This time, the longer one put Golden State up by six and sent fans start­ing to head to­ward the ex­its.

“Dif­fer­ent game, dif­fer­ent sea­son, dif­fer­ent feel,” Du­rant shrugged af­ter­ward, know­ing full well how sim­i­lar it was to the one he hit last sea­son and know­ing what it means right now. “Just a dif­fer­ent vibe around the team.” No, it isn’t. That team had a cham­pi­onship vibe. Soon, maybe tonight, maybe not un­til Mon­day, this team will have the same.

This was why the War­riors needed Du­rant, and this is why Du­rant needed the War­riors. He was an elite player be­fore he went to Golden State. He’s now about to be a twotime cham­pion be­cause he went to Golden State. And it’s a re­minder to the rest of the NBA that when the free-agency shop­ping kiosks open on July 1, this is the team to be chas­ing.

They did not have a su­per reg­u­lar sea­son. They are a Su­perteam, with­out ques­tion.

To win any NBA Fi­nals game, on the road, when Le­Bron James has a triple-dou­ble, when they trailed most of the night, when the deficit was as many as 13 early, when Curry and Thomp­son shot a com­bined 7 for 27 ... only a Su­perteam can pull that off.

“It’s al­most like play­ing the Pa­tri­ots,” Cleve­land su­per­star Le­Bron James said Wed­nes­day night. “You can’t have mis­takes. They’re not go­ing to beat them­selves. You know, so when you’re able to ei­ther force a mis­cue on them, you have to be able to cap­i­tal­ize and you have to be so in tuned and ra­zor sharp and fo­cused ev­ery sin­gle pos­ses­sion. You can’t have mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, you can’t have flaws ... be­cause they’re go­ing to make you pay.”

James had a triple-dou­ble. He’s three re­bounds shy of av­er­ag­ing one in this se­ries. He even had the high­light play of the se­ries, a shot (which was re­ally a pass) off the back­board to him­self that he re­bounded and vi­ciously dunked. And he’s still down 3-0.

He’s not con­ced­ing. But he is clearly tip­ping his cap to the War­riors, his neme­sis in each of the last four Junes and a team that’s one win shy of beat­ing him in three of those se­ries.

“That’s what cham­pi­onship teams do,” James said. “That’s what cham­pi­onship play­ers do. They rise to the oc­ca­sion, and that’s what Golden State has done the last four years.”

Du­rant has made quite a ca­reer out of ris­ing to the oc­ca­sion.

He was amused ear­lier in this se­ries by a ques­tion that sug­gested the defin­ing mo­ment of his ca­reer was the 3-poin­ter in Game 3 last sea­son. (“You know, I had a pretty solid ca­reer be­fore I hit that shot, I felt,” Du­rant said.) He will be equally amused when he gets asked if the shot he made Wed­nes­day will also be a defin­ing mo­ment. He’s been an MVP, a Fi­nals MVP, an Olympic gold medal­ist al­ready. This is just what’s next. “I was def­i­nitely ex­cited,” said Du­rant, who tends to try and keep emo­tions to him­self. “It’s hard to make shots at this level in the NBA and I un­der­stand that. But at the same time I knew the game wasn’t over.”

It may as well have been. Cleve­land got within four on the next pos­ses­sion af­ter Du­rant’s dag­ger, but never any closer.

“They have a num­ber of guys that can bail their team out on any play, any game, any pos­ses­sion,” Cleve­land’s Kevin Love said. “And he’s been that for them a num­ber of times. De­fenses try to plan for him, but when you’re 6-11, 7-feet and you’re shoot­ing a lazy pullup on the left wing from 27 feet that’s pretty tough to guard.”

For the record, Du­rant made ev­ery ef­fort to de­fer the credit Wed­nes­day night. He didn’t think his shot was the big­gest of the game. He thought Curry’s lone 3-poin­ter in 10 tries — one that put the War­riors up by four with 2:38 re­main­ing — car­ried more weight, and he might have been right.

But Du­rant fin­ished it off. The game. The sea­son. The ti­tle, ba­si­cally.

“You know, we’ve got a lot of depth,” War­riors coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can play, and they’re all chip­ping in. But we should prob­a­bly go back to Kevin Du­rant, shouldn’t we? That was amaz­ing what he did.”

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