Common NBA wisdom dictates that role players benefit the most from playing at home.
That idiom held true in large part for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, but it still wasn’t enough to fend off the seemingly unstoppable firepower of the Golden State Warriors.
with an 110-102 win.
The Cavs opened up strong, working to get Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson involved. All three scored before LeBron James did as the Cavs opened a 16-4 lead.
Man, oh man.
The Cavs weren’t the one-man team they often seem to be in the first half, with James, Smith and Love all scoring in double digits as Love led the way with 15 points to go with 10 first-half rebounds. The effort to spread the ball around was concerted as James logged nine first-half assists.
Meanwhile, the Warriors were off. Curry and Thompson continually drew iron with their jump shots combining for seven points on 3-of-15 shooting with just one 3-pointer between them. The Cavs’ lead dwindled when they went to their bench, but Cleveland looked in their zone holding a 58-49 lead with the second-quarter clock winding down.
Then Durant happened. The Warriors All-World forward popped up with 0.8 seconds remaining to hit a deep 3-pointer and cut Cleveland’s halftime lead to six while giving the Cavs and their home crowd something to think during the break.
And Durant happened all night. Whether pulling up open from 26 feet or shooting with a hand in his face Durant was unstoppable from distance and appeared intent on throwing his hat in the ring for Finals MVP honors. He finished with a playoff career-high 43 points to go with 13 rebounds and seven assists, including hitting 6-of-9 3-pointers.
Led by Durant, the Warriors did what they do in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavs 31-23 to take an 83-81 lead heading into the fourth. Aside from Rodney Hood, who came out firing after being buried on the bench the first two games, Cavs players not named James who thrived in the first half shrunk. After his 15 and 10 first half, Love finished the game with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
The Cavs kept the game close through most of the fourth quarter. But in the end, the Warriors were the Warriors. Curry finally found his stroke from distance, hitting his first 3-pointer of the game to extend Golden State’s lead to 101-97 with just under three minutes remaining.
And a Durant dagger from more than 30 feet sealed the deal, giving the Warriors a 106-100 lead in the final minute and seemingly sealing the fate of these NBA Finals.