Finals Game 3: It Was Durant’s Turn

Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James had his greatest postseason performance ever in the 2018 NBA Finals Game 1 loss to Golden State and two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry broke the Finals three-pointers record in the Dubs’ Game 2 victory.

So it was only natural that this series’ remaining NBA MVP Kevin Durant would make Game 3 his piece de resistance with a 43-point, 13-rebound, 7-assist Finals feat that reminded oldheads of Magic Johnson’s 42/15/7 championship-clincher in 1980 when he replaced injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Lakers center.

https://twitter.com/warriors/status/1004592538592792577

On a similar parallel in Golden State’s 110-102 Game 3 victory over Cleveland Wednesday, Durant was there too for his Golden State teammates, who were missing their typical Splash Brothers performance from Curry and Klay Thompson. I mean, when was the last time these two All-Star guards were both limited to a combined 21 points on 27 shots while making only 3 of 15 three-point attempts?

But leave it to the stepbrother addition to the family to step in with 43 uber-efficient points on a historic .824 true shooting percentage, making 6 of 9 three-pointers, 9 of 14 two-pointers and 7 of 7 free throws.

“He gave me and Steph a night off which is nice when you’ve got what coach [Steve Kerr] calls the ultimate luxury,” said Klay Thompson in his postgame interview with the NBA TV panel. “Your backcourt combines for 21 points and your small forward gets 43? It’s a beautiful sight to see.”

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

KEVIN DURANT’S GREATEST PLAYOFF PERFORMANCES

 GAME  MIN  PTS  REB  AST  TSP  +/-
 6/6/18 GSW 110, CLE 102  43  43  13  7  .824  +15
 5/7/11 OKC 112, DAL 121  42  40  8  5  .759  -1
 6/2/12 SAS 103, OKC 109  44  36  6  8  .751  +1
 6/1/17 CLE 91, GSW 113  38  38  9  8  ,644  +16
 6/4/17 CLE 113, GSW 132  41  33  13  6  .708  +21

MIN minutes; PTS points; REB rebounds; AST assists; TSP true shooting percentage; +/- plus-minus.

Source: Basketball-Reference

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

You will never see a more effortless 43 point game meshing with a more effort-filled defensive and rebounding complementary game.

“I just tried to played hard defense, tried to rebound as best as I could, and if my shots were there, just take them patiently with poise,” says Durant. “I found some good spots. My teammates did a great job of setting screens for me and setting me up. Coach did a great job of calling plays for me. I just tried to come through and be aggressive, just to do something,

Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

“But my main concerns was defensive effort and intensity and rebounding.”

KD’s all-around game really did show up all around the game, from start to finish.

There was Durant the scorer in the first half, keeping his team at arm’s length while LeBron and Kevin Love were throwing haymakers left and right. In what could have been a double-deficit half, Durant scored 24 points and helped cut the Cavs’ halftime margin to 58-52.

There was Durant the chairmen of the boards throughout, keeping the Cavaliers’ 15-6 offensive rebound margin from getting out of hand.

And there too was Durant the playmaker, creating seven assists for his teammates when the double-teams did come his way, with two key clutch passes finding his wing Andre Iguodala twice for layup/dunks in the final period when Durant was also scoring nine points in 10 minutes while his Dubs outscored the Cavs, 24-18, in KD’s final 10 minutes down the stretch.

But no possession was more important than Durant’s dagger with less than a minute remaining, when the pseudo-seven-footer rose above the fray and drilled a far-out three-pointer from 30 feet away, putting the Dubs up by 6 with 49.8 seconds remaining, and essentially ending these NBA Finals as the Warriors took a 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series.

For many up-close observers, the play was eerily reminiscent of Durant’s 2017 NBA Finals Game 3 dagger that saw the 2017 Finals MVP drill a 25-foot three-pointer from a similar vicinity, on a shot then that turned a two-point deficit into a one-point lead with 45 seconds remaining.

“This game was like deja vu from Game 3 of last year all the way around,” concurred Draymond Green.

LeBron added, “This one was four or five feet beyond the one from last year. But it was definitely one of those same assassin plays right there.”

Even though all around him acknowledged the similarities, Durant was too caught up in staying competitive for Game 4 Friday that he refused to celebrate any of Wednesday’s heroics, lest he be celebrating prematurely, before the task at hand is done.

“Different game, different season, different feel, different vibe,” says Durant. “Everything is just different.

Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

“We’re not done playing basketball yet, so I don’t look at this as a defining moment. I don’t want to downplay anything, but I don’t want to act like this is the end of the road. We get back to work tomorrow, figure out a better game plan—I thought we did some things tonight that we need to correct if we want to win the next game.

“I’m just really trying to come in and be the best player and teammate I can be until this thing is over. I just gotta stay locked in,”