CLEVELAND, (Reuters) – The Golden State Warriors rallied late for a 118-113 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday to grab a commanding 3-0 NBA Finals lead and move within one game of postseason perfection.
The Warriors had trailed the defending champions for much of the second half but used a late surge to secure a 15th straight win, the longest postseason streak for any team in the four major professional sports.
Cleveland had looked like they might prevail when they were ahead by six points with three minutes to play but Kevin Durant led the Warriors on an impressive 11-0 run to close out the game.
“Obviously K.D. made some huge plays down the stretch,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “It wasn’t our smartest game that we have played all year, but it was maybe our toughest in terms of our ability to just hang in there.”
Durant scored a team-high 31 points for the Warriors, who will get a chance on Friday in Cleveland to become the first team to go unbeaten all the way to a title.
It was his pull-up three-pointer over LeBron James with 45 seconds remaining that gave the Warriors their first lead since late in the third quarter that had everyone talking.
“I’ve been working on that shot my whole life,” said Durant, who has averaged 34 points through the first three games of the Finals. “To see that go in, that was liberating, man. We’ve got one more to go.”
The NBA’s best-of-seven championship was billed as the ultimate grudge match between the league’s last two champions and some pundits felt it could go down as one of the most hotly-contested series of all-time.
But the top-seeded Warriors, seeking their second title in three seasons, are playing at another level and barring a meltdown of epic proportions, will soon be celebrating their second NBA title in three seasons.
James and Kyrie Irving combined for 77 points, dominating much of the second half, but even their electrifying performance was not enough to put a blemish on the Warriors’ perfect record.
“I said it after we won the Eastern Conference finals that we’re getting ready for a juggernaut. It’s probably the most, most firepower I’ve played in my career,” said James.
“I played against some great teams, but I don’t think no team has had this type of firepower.”
James suffered a scary moment late in the first quarter when he collapsed to the floor after running head-first into the shoulder of teammate Tristan Thompson, bringing a hush over what had been a raucous crowd.
The four-times MVP laid on the floor several seconds before being helped up and made a driving layup shortly after.