Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) walks off the court after losing to the Golden State Warriors 118-113 in Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
CLEVELAND – In the best game of the 2017 postseason, the Golden State Warriors outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers and improved to 15-0 in the playoffs with a 118-113 victory in game three of The Finals.
The Cavs got 77 combined points on 55 percent shooting from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in what was their best offensive game of the series by far. But it wasn’t enough, as the Warriors erased a six-point deficit down the stretch, with Kevin Durant hitting the biggest shot of the game, a pull-up three with 45 seconds left that gave the Western Conference champs the lead for good.
One stat stood out as the Warriors moved to within one win of their second championship in three years and the greatest postseason in NBA history.
Game 3 basics
Pace: 103.3 possessions per team per 48 minutes
OffRtg: 113.9 points scored per 100 possessions
OffRtg: 109.7 points scored per 100 possessions
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
6 — Scoreless possessions to end the game for the Cavs.
With 3:09 left, the Cavs took a 113-107 lead on a J.R. Smith three-pointer off a brilliant drive-and-kick. At the point, they had scored 113 points on just 94 possessions, a rate of 1.20 per possession.
And then they had their longest drought of the night. After Durant missed a three, J.R. Smith missed one on the other end and Kevin Love fumbled a LeBron James pass after an offensive rebound.
Then the Cavs had their biggest defensive lapse of the final stretch, allowing Stephen Curry to drive down the middle of the floor on the break. Kyrie Irving almost made up for it with an incredible play to rebound his own miss out of the hands of Draymond Green. But James then missed a turnaround jumper over Andre Iguodala.
Durant then put the Warriors within two with a short jumper over Tristan Thompson. After a timeout, the Cavs got a great shot, an open corner three for Kyle Korver. But he missed, and Durant came straight down the floor and drained a three from the top of the key over James.
At that point, the Cavs had just one timeout left, perhaps because they burned an extra one to get James and Irving some rest in the fourth. Irving played the entire second half and James rested for just 34 seconds near the end of the third period.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue chose to save the timeout and Irving chose to isolate on Klay Thompson. Not only did he not leave enough time on the clock for a 2-for-1, but he came up well short on a tough step-back three-pointer from the left wing that made him 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. Irving has attempted at least seven three’s 114 times in his career (regular season or playoffs) and this was the second time in those 114 games that he didn’t make any of them.
The Cavs followed up that ugly possession with another mental mistake, allowing 12 seconds to elapse before fouling Durant. After he made both and the Cavs used their final timeout, Andre Iguodala got his hands on James’ attempt to tie from the corner and James touched the ball out of bounds.
After a couple of Curry free throws, Love missed a three to drop the Cavs to 12-for-44 (27 percent) from three-point range and 17-for-56 (30 percent) from outside the paint for the game.
It was the best game we’ve seen in a long time. And down the stretch, one team executed and the other did not. Credit what has been the best defense in these playoffs, but Cleveland’s mistakes stand out more than Golden State’s execution on that end of the floor.
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