Durant plays role of closer, puts Warriors on precipice of perfect postseason

Durant plays role of closer, puts Warriors on precipice of perfect postseason

CLEVELAND -- In a little more than a minute, in game that does not clinch a series, Kevin Durant locked up what surely should be the most coveted individual award in the NBA.

That would be, of course, the Bill Russell Award that goes to the MVP of The Finals, to the player who was great in the most games of the most important series.

For when things looked bleakest Wednesday night, in a building holding 20,562 people screaming for his failure, Durant dived into the moment, pushing the Warriors to a 118-113 victory in Game 3 that gives them an imposing 3-0 series lead over the Cavaliers.

One more victory, and the Warriors will have their second championship in three seasons.

If that win comes Friday night in Game 4, they will become the first squad in major American team sports to sweep four games in four consecutive series to finish 16-0.

Durant, with 14 fourth-quarter points, is primarily responsible for putting them in this position.

“He was their closer tonight, for sure,” Cavs guard Kyrie Irving conceded after a game the needed to win to give this series at least semblance of legit competition.

“He took over,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You can tell, he knows this is his moment. He's been an amazing player in this league for a long time, and he senses this is his time, his moment, his team.

“When I say his team, I mean it's not literally just his team, it's that we’ve got a group around him that can help him and create space for him with the shooting and the playmaking, and I think he's having the time of his life out there.”

Stephen Curry was fabulous, with 26 points, a team-best 13 rebounds and six assists. Klay Thompson was remarkable, with 30 points and six rebounds. Andre Iguodala was impactful off the bench, producing 7 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals.

But at a time when the Warriors needed someone to carry them home, Durant did.

With the Warriors trailing 113-109, with 1:24 remaining, Durant came out of a timeout and drained a jumper over Cavs center Tristan Thompson that put the score at 113-111 with 1:15 to play, forcing a Cleveland timeout.

“We know in that situation to get that man the rock,” Thompson said. “He's 7-foot, can shoot over almost anybody and has amazing shooting touch, and he made a dagger 3. Well, not a dagger, but a huge 3 there. And we're confident in him taking that shot every time.”

The Cavs tried to answer, but Kyle Korver’s 3-point attempt missed, the rebound going to none other than Durant, who went sprinting into the frontcourt, firing a 3-pointer over LeBron James that bottomed, giving the Warriors their first lead since late in the third quarter.

And, moreover, silencing Quicken Loans Arena.

“He lives for those moments,” Andre Iguodala said of Durant.

“We know if we get off the board and push, we're a dangerous team,” Durant said. “And I (saw James) backing up, and I just wanted to take that shot.”

An Irving miss led to another Warriors possession that ended with a pair of Durant free throws, for a 116-113 lead with 12.9 seconds remaining.

Scoring 7 points in roughly 62 seconds, Durant extinguished any reasonable hope of a Cavaliers comeback in Game 3, and practically putting them on ice for the summer.

“Came down to the stretch, and they made some big time plays,” Irving said. “KD comes down, hits a big 3, puts them up one, iso on the wing. I'll probably be replaying that play for a while.”

Durant through three games is averaging 34 points (on 56.1-percent shooting), 10 rebounds and two blocks. He’s coming for LeBron, coming for the first championship of a 10-year NBA career.

Another solid performance in a Warrior victory, and Durant will have that, along with trophy that ought to be cherished above all others and in his case would have to serve as the last word to his critics.

What if they don't win the title? Joe Lacob says Warriors 'looking at different options'


What if they don't win the title? Joe Lacob says Warriors 'looking at different options'

The Warriors were the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

That is probably going to change this season, as they trail the Rockets by three games (although it's really four because Houston has the tiebreaker) with 12 games to play (and only lead the Raptors by one game).

What does owner Joe Lacob think about his team right now?

“We’ve had our best team we’ve ever had this year,” Lacob recently told Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group (read the full story here). “We have to go prove it on the court, but we have enough to win it.

"It doesn’t mean we will, but we are certainly set up to have the opportunity potentially to do that. That’s about all you can ask.”

Things can change in an instant and Lacob understands that.

That's why he's constantly discussing scenarios with Warriors GM Bob Myers and the rest of Golden State's decision-makers.

“We’ll build around that core until we decide maybe we shouldn’t," Lacob told BANG. "But right now it feels pretty good. These guys are all performing at a great level. We love them as part of our organization.

"I don’t really see doing anything major. But you never really know. We have to evaluate when the season is over. It’s very hard when you’re in the middle of it all to see it objectively.”

What happens if the Warriors don't win the championship this year?

We will leave you with this quote Lacob gave BANG.

“Maybe we will emphasize continuity. Or maybe we will make a big move. We’re looking at different options, given different things playing out in different ways.

"I think you should always be doing that.”

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge


Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge

In 43 seasons battling the Spurs, only once have the Warriors swept a season series, a feat they will accomplish again with a victory Monday night in San Antonio.

Winning at AT&T Center will be a tough task for the depleted Warriors (53-17), who for the third consecutive game will take the floor with three of their four All-Stars -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson -- unavailable. Guard Pat McCaw, however, will be available for the first time in five weeks.

After the Spurs (40-30) lost nine of 11 games over a 30-day span and seemed to be fading from the playoff race, they’ve posted three straight wins and are very much in the race, despite the continued absence of star forward Kawhi Leonard.


Spurs by 7


Draymond Green & Co. vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is a load for any defender and has carried the Spurs this season. Expect the Warriors to stick to their routine when facing a single pivotal player and send a variety of defenders. Green is sure to be one of them. Others likely to take turns include Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, David West and maybe even Kevon Looney. The Warriors will consider it success if they can keep Aldridge under 30 points.


Warriors: F Omri Casspi (R ankle tweak), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) and listed as out.

Spurs: F Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3. Spurs: 5-5.


James Capers (crew chief), Bennie Adams, Karl Lane


The Warriors won the first three of four meetings this season: 112-92 on Nov. 2 in San Antonio, 122-105 on Feb. 10 in Oakland and 110-107 on March 8 at Oakland. They were 1-2 against San Antonio last season and are 9-7 against the Spurs in the Steve Kerr era.


COOK’S ROLL: Two-way PG Quinn Cook was terrific in the last two games, scoring a combined 53 points on 21-of-30 shooting. That was against lottery teams. The Spurs traditionally make life tough for guards and will pose a much bigger challenge. If Cook stays hot under this pressure, the Warriors will be beyond ecstatic.

MCCAW RETURNS: The return of McCaw, out since Feb. 12 with a L wrist fracture, gives the Warriors a fourth guard and some welcome flexibility. Cook played 80 minutes in the recent back-to-back set, and Nick Young played 78. McCaw will be on a minutes restriction (less than 20) but can perform on or off the ball.

THE BENCH GAME: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has virtually trademarked liberal usage of reserves; only San Antonio has had eight players score in double figures in three different games this season, and 13 different Spurs average at least 10 ppg. Their depth will be a problem for these very thin Warriors.