It was a stunning turn of events in Cleveland. It was Game 3, after all, and many people were assuming this would be Cleveland’s best chance at taking a game. And it looked like that was exactly what was going to happen, with the Cavaliers up 113-111 with just over a minute left to play.
It had been a tennis-like game, with the lead changing 19 times and tied for an additional 10. Then came the knockout punch from Kevin Durant in the form of a glorious 3-point shot with 45 seconds left, followed up by a pair of free throws.
Andre Iguodala sealed the deal on the other end of the court with a block on LeBron James that might have stolen Cleveland’s collective will to carry on.
Andre Iguodala strip on LeBron James. pic.twitter.com/5Ohh0seCgy— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) June 8, 2017
This is the moment. This minute of basketball is exactly why the Warriors signed Kevin Durant. Everyone complains about him signing with the Warriors, while simultaneously mocking them for losing in 2016. What did you think they were going to do, go away? No. They did what needed to be done to improve their team and it was specifically for moments like this one.
Let’s give credit where credit is due, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were amazing tonight. Together, they combined for 77 points. The problem with that, however, is that the rest of their team...well, let’s just say 36 points is less than Cleveland put up in the first quarter alone. J.R. Smith put up 16, but Kevin Love — despite being a force to be reckoned with on rebounds — only managed 9 points.
The big three scorers for Golden State, meanwhile, put up numbers consistent with their philosophy of sharing the ball — with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry combining for 87 points.
Durant had a team-high 31 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Meanwhile, Thompson got hot from the first shot and made everyone wonder just how much he was going to go off tonight as he racked up 30 points and six rebounds.
Curry had 26 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals and only one turnover, which in a game like this, was pretty respectable, considering turnovers were a problem early.
Andre Iguodala had a great night, as well, with the above mentioned block, seven points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Draymond Green had eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He might have completed the triple-double, too, if he hadn’t gotten into early foul trouble on his way to five personal fouls and a technical foul on the night.
In his defense, the officiating was pretty questionable, to put it mildly, and he was not the only one getting fed up about the lack of consistency.
It was one of the more aggressive games I can remember seeing. There is an inherent bias towards your team in those situations, but Warriors fans were not having it. Combined, the Warriors were called for 28 fouls. The only players not to get one were Patrick McCaw and James Michael McAdoo — with McAdoo only playing for six seconds in the game.
On the other end, Green was one away from fouling out, Zaza Pachulia and Thompson had four, and Curry, McGee and Iguodala had three.
However, to be fair, the Cavaliers had 25 fouls called between all of their players so it’s probably the bias speaking to call it unfair only to the Warriors. Even James had two and that seems high for a game in Cleveland.
Turnovers seemed likely to hurt the Warriors much worse than they did. Though they ended up with 18 on the night, they had five in the first six minutes. It was ugly and the Cavaliers were capitalizing on it.
Thankfully, Thompson, Durant and eventually Curry were there to make sure it didn’t matter, with threes raining down like rain on Cleveland’s parade as the Warriors combined for nine in the quarter.
The second quarter started off much like the first: Early turnovers, early foul trouble, and then it became a defensive clinic on both sides. In four minutes of play, the only two points scored were a layup by James.
In a strange turn of events, it wasn’t the Warriors who exploded in the third quarter, however. It was the Cavaliers, as Kyrie Irving was making every shot and the Warriors could hardly buy one. Durant didn’t score at all and Golden State was outscored by 11.
Which was fine, really. No one was writing this game off, no sir. Not one single blogger started writing a tirade about the referees and cursing the toaster for betraying us.
Really, it was fine, because the Warriors have Kevin Durant. Durant scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, including the dagger shot. And, instead of risking more 3-1 jokes if they win on Friday night, they now have the real opportunity to sweep the playoffs.