After a summer highlighted by Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City for the star-laden Golden State Warriors, a six-month regular season and three rounds of playoffs, the NBA Finals are right back where they ended last June.
Not that anyone expected any different.
GAME 3: WARRIORS WIN 118-113
Kevin Durant made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 45 seconds left and the Golden State Warriors took a 3-0 in the NBA Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-113 on Wednesday night.
Durant scored 31 points and Klay Thompson had 30 for the Warriors, who improved to 15-0 in the postseason and are on the brink of the first undefeated finish in the NBA. Stephen Curry had 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
LeBron James had 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Cavaliers, and Kyrie Irving added 38 points. Blown out in the first two games, the Cavaliers were much better in Game 3, but just not good enough to beat a team that could go down as one of the best ever.
Game 4 is here Friday night.
GAME 2: WARRIORS WIN 132-113
Stephen Curry dribbled every which way and beat LeBron James to the rim in a move reminiscent of his recent MVP magic, and the Golden State Warriors grabbed a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals by downing the Cleveland Cavaliers 132-113 Sunday night in coach Steve Kerr's return to the sideline.
Their leader and reigning NBA Coach of the Year back on the bench after a six-week absence, Curry and Kevin Durant tag-teamed the Warriors within two victories of another championship. Curry recorded his first career postseason triple-double with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while Durant contributed 33 points, 13 rebounds and six assists while moving two wins from his first ring. Read more
GAME 1: WARRIORS WIN 113-91
Kevin Durant scored 38 points in his first NBA Finals game with Golden State, Stephen Curry added 28 and the Warriors rolled to their 13th straight win this postseason by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91 in Game 1.
With Durant on board, the opener of Cavs-Warriors III was a mismatch as Golden State scored the first 13 points of the third quarter to take a 21-point lead and never looked back.
LeBron James had 28 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavs but also finished with seven turnovers.
Cleveland has lost the opener in the Finals to Golden State for three straight years but did rally to win the championship in seven games last year.
"I know the way I’m built"
This matchup has seemed ordained since James walked off the court in Oakland last June, having delivered his native northeast Ohio its first major team championship since 1964.
James had won two titles as part of another “super team” in Miami but last year’s crown meant even more to his legacy.
“I’m not in the ‘prove people wrong, silence critics’ department no more,” James said. “I got a promotion when I got to the 30s. At the end of the day, I know the way I’m built. My only motivation is to be able to compete for a championship every single year.”
The Warriors have been right there the past two years, winning the franchise’s first title in 40 years in 2015 and then blowing a 3-1 lead last year to put a sour ending on a record-breaking 73-win season.
RELATED: Defend the Land! Watch all the 2017 NBA Finals games on News 5 Cleveland and ABC
That series turned when Green was suspended for Game 5 and James and Kyrie Irving took over from there.
“Any time someone beats you, you’d love to play them,” Green said. “But at the end of the day winning a championship is winning a championship. You don’t care who you’ve got to take down, you just want to take whoever that is down.”
5 things to watch in NBA Finals Part III:
1. FINALS REMATCH
While the Cavs and Warriors have played in the Finals the past two years, Durant and James met before that in different uniforms. James won his first title in 2012 with Miami in a five-game series over Durant and the Thunder. Durant played well, averaging 30.6 points and shooting 55 percent but James came out on top.
“I know I’ve grown as a player just through experience from the last five years, but if I don’t go out there and execute, none of that matters,” Durant said.
2. BROWN CONNECTION
James’ first trip to the Finals came 10 years ago when the Cavs were swept by San Antonio. His coach that year was Mike Brown, who has served as acting coach for the Warriors while Steve Kerr is out following complications from back surgery. Brown had two stints as coach in Cleveland, leading the team to the playoffs five straight times from 2006-10 before returning for a one-year stint in 2013-14 when the Cavs won 33 games.
“It feels a little surreal,” Brown said. “I’m sure come tip-off tomorrow, when I’m looking at those guys in that uniform, it will feel even more that way, but right now just kind of taking everything in stride.”
3. UNDERDOG CAVS
According to the odds makers in Las Vegas and the number crunchers at analytical sites, the Warriors are the clear favorites to win the series after sweeping their way through the playoffs with a record-setting margin of victory of 16.3 points per game. James has called Golden State a “juggernaut” but the Warriors aren’t buying all that talk.
“We’ve had a great season to this point, a great playoff run. And hopefully we keep it going, but we fully respect and are aware that this team that we’re playing, they’re the champions and we’re not,” Kerr said.
4. KLAY’S SHOT
One of the few things that hasn’t gone right for Golden State this postseason has been Klay Thompson’s shooting. He has hit just 38 percent of his shots as his normally reliable jumper has failed him.
“I’ve had a week off,” Thompson said. “So I feel great. Can’t get caught up in your shot falling or not.”
Thompson has been stellar on the defensive end even when his shot has been off and will likely be counted on at times to slow down Irving, who scored 98 points in the final three games last year, including the series-clinching 3-pointer.
5. BY THE NUMBERS
The Warriors are the first team to win their first 12 games of the postseason, sweeping all three rounds so far. The Cavs haven’t been far behind, losing only in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final to Boston.
This series also features 11 players who have been named All-Stars in their careers, including seven this year. The only other time a Finals matchup featured 11 former All-Stars came in 1983 when Philadelphia swept the Los Angeles Lakers.