For the fourth straight year, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers battled each other in the NBA Finals, and for the fourth straight year, LeBron James slowly walked back to his locker room, staring a seemingly insurmountable deficit straight in the eyes following a heartbreaking loss on his home floor.
The Warriors took Game 3 on the shoulders of Kevin Durant, as his 43-point performance on 65 percent shooting propelled them to a 110-102 victory despite an off night for Steph Curry. Durant drilled a late, backbreaking three-pointer, bringing Quicken Loans Arena to a near-complete silence. Once again, the group toppled the individual as the league’s best team had defeated the league’s best player.
In a sense, LeBron failed against the mighty Warriors yet again. He deferred to Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson on key possessions late, which ended with a Love turnover that led to Curry’s lone three-pointer of the night and a missed bunny from Thompson that led to Durant drilling his three to bury the Cavs seconds later.
A closer look at what occurred in the game’s final quarter tells a different story. LeBron scored 12 of the Cavs’ 21 points in the fourth, dragging them as far as he could. After a Rodney Hood jumper tied the game with 8:23 left, no other Cavalier made a field goal. The team shot 0-for-8 from the field while LeBron kept them afloat by shooting 3-for-6, including a key three-pointer late. Unbeknownst to the public, he was doing it all with a hand injury that required a soft cast between games.
Love was the only other scorer in those final eight minutes — he hit two free throws but missed his only field goal attempt, a failed tip in. J.R. Smith missed three three-pointers, all of them would have resulted in assists for LeBron. Thompson missed two shots in the paint that would have been LeBron assists as well. Hood missed one jumper in the lane after he was stripped and another meaningless shot in the final seconds after the result was decided.