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Kevin Durant-led rally over Cleveland Cavaliers brings Golden State Warriors to brink of history

By The Sports Xchange
Kevin Durant-led rally over Cleveland Cavaliers brings Golden State Warriors to brink of history
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (R) is greeted by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (L) after Durant scored a three point jumper. File photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA

CLEVELAND -- The Golden State Warriors are one win from a sweep, from revenge, from history.

Kevin Durant, the difference in the 2017 NBA Finals, led the Warriors with 31 points, and Golden State mounted a furious comeback to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-113 in Game 3.

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The Warriors, down by six with less than two minutes remaining, scored the game's final 11 points.

Up 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, the Warriors can win their second title in three seasons and become the first team in NBA history to go through the playoffs without a loss with a win in Game 4 on Friday night in Cleveland.

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Golden State is now 15-0 this postseason. That is the longest winning streak in the playoffs in any major North American professional sport.

"It's not done," Durant said. "Closeout game is always the toughest. We have to be even better in Game 4 if we want to take this. It's an exciting time, but we still have a lot of work to do."

LeBron James scored 39 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out nine assists for Cleveland. Kyrie Irving added 38 for the Cavs, who went scoreless over the game's final 3:09.

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Durant, meanwhile, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 45.3 seconds left for a 114-113 advantage.

"Even when you're playing well, you got to play like A-plus-plus, because they're going to make runs and they're going to make shots and they got guys that's going to make plays," James said. "So we made enough plays tonight to still win the ballgame, but they made a couple more."

Klay Thompson had 30 points for the Warriors and Stephen Curry finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds. After committing 20 turnovers in Game 2, Golden State was again careless with the ball (18 turnovers for 22 Cleveland points).

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And, again, it didn't matter.

After J.R. Smith drained a 3-pointer with 3:09 left for a 113-107 advantage, the Cavs missed eight shots. Kevin Love missed a layup, James a turnaround jumper, and Kyle Korver an open 3-point try in the corner.

"Obviously K.D. made some huge plays down the stretch," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I thought Klay's defense on Kyrie was amazing. Overall, it was just an incredibly tough, resilient performance. It wasn't our smartest game that we have played all year, but it was maybe our toughest in terms of our ability to just hang in there.

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"And nothing was really going our way, but we were still there. And we just had to kind of stay with it, and I thought our guys did a really good job of that."

Smith recovered from a poor first two games to score 16 for the Cavs. Love added nine points, 13 rebounds and six steals.

Last year, the Cavs recovered from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors in seven games. The year before, Golden State fell behind 2-1 in the series but closed out a title in Game 6 in Cleveland.

After the comeback win Wednesday in a game in which they faced their toughest test, the Warriors hope to be popping champagne again at Quicken Loans Arena.

"It sets us up for hopefully a great night on Friday," Curry said.

The Warriors entered play as the best team in the NBA in the third quarter, and they outscored the Cavs by 24 in the third quarters of the first two games. Not this time. Irving erupted for 16 points in the period, and the Cavs held a 94-89 edge heading into the fourth.

It was Cleveland's first lead at the end of any quarter in this series. Love's 3-pointer at 8:59 gave the Cavs their first advantage at any point after the first quarter in this series, and Cleveland's 94-87 lead toward the end of the period was its largest of the series.

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The Warriors closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run and led 39-32. They set an NBA record with nine 3-pointers in the period. Thompson was scorching with 16 points, while James countered with 16 for the Cavs.

With about six minutes left in the opening quarter, James was caught flush in the jaw by an inadvertent shoulder from teammate Tristan Thompson. James was rushing to the perimeter on defense, and Thompson moved back and the two collided, laying James out on the court. James remained in the game, and after the timeout scored on a drive to the hoop.

When the first half was over, James had 27 points and the Warriors had committed 12 turnovers, and yet Golden State still led 67-61. Irving drove the length of the floor and lobbed one high off the glass for a layup at the buzzer to get the Cavs to within six.

NOTES: Cavaliers F LeBron James passed Sam Jones (1,143 points), Bill Russell (1,151), and Elgin Baylor (1,161) for fourth place on the NBA Finals all-time scoring list in the first half. He passed Russell (315 assists) for third all time in Finals assists, too. ... The previous longest postseason winning streak in major North American sports was 14 games by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992 and '93. ... Country music stars and Columbus, Ohio, natives Rascal Flatts sang the national anthem. ... Urban Meyer, Ohio State football coach and friend of James, and PGA Tour star Bubba Watson were among the celebrities on hand. ... The last time the Warriors lost with F Kevin Durant healthy was Feb. 13 in Denver, prior to the All-Star break. ... According to Forbes Magazine, James is the second-highest paid athlete in the world in 2017, with salary and endorsements totaling $86.2 million. Golden State F Kevin Durant is fifth on that list at $60.6 million, and Warriors G Stephen Curry is eighth at $47.3 million.

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