Kevin Durant said he’d been practicing the shot for his entire life, and a lifetime of preparation paid off Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Durant went on a personal 7-0 run over the final two minutes of Game 3 of the NBA Finals to propel his Golden State Warriors to a 118-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined for 77 points, and James rested only two minutes the entire game.
But even with James and Irving playing at an other-worldly level, Durant’s cold-blooded pull-up 3-pointer with 45 seconds left made their efforts just a footnote in NBA history.
The Warriors have been on a mission from the minute the buzzer sounded following their NBA Finals collapse last year, and they only needed to check a few more boxes before claiming the trophy.
Golden State had played only nine clutch minutes during the entire NBA playoffs entering Wednesday night and had been blown out in its previous two Game 3’s at Quicken Loans Arena. With two minutes remaining, the Warriors found themselves trailing by four points, and that’s when Durant began to craft his legacy.
The star forward hit a baseline jump shot over James to trim the lead to two. Then after Kyle Korver missed a 3-pointer, Durant calmly came up the floor staring down James, the greatest player in the NBA, and pulled up without hesitation.
The shot, like the series, never was in doubt. The heat-seeking missile found the bottom of the net to give the Warriors a one-point lead. Durant added two free throws to finish a personal 7-0 run that gave the Warriors a 3-0 series lead.
Durant’s game-winning jump shot not only checked all the boxes for this Warriors team, save one — winning the NBA championship with a perfect 16-0 playoff record — but also erased all doubts about his ability to win and be “the guy” on a championship team.
Make no mistake about it, this is Durant’s team. He finished the game with 31 points, and he not only took Game 3 from James, but he also might have taken the mantle of greatest player on the planet right along with it.
Durant followed James’ path by leaving the only team he’d known for greener pastures, and Wednesday he took “The King’s” best shot, and vanquished him.
Game 4 likely will be all that’s left of the 2016-17 NBA season. The Warriors will have exacted their revenge on the Cavaliers, but more importantly, the coronation of Durant will be complete.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images