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Who Owned Cavs-Warriors Game 3?

Durant, Steph, Kyrie, and LeBron turned up the star power

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

The Steph Curry Game

I will remember this performance for a very long time. It was everything you know Steph can do — maze-wandering dribbles, impossibly angled passes, and the signature quick-draw, long-range 3s. But it was the surprise plays that will stay with me — the piss and vinegar with Iman Shumpert, ripping the ball from a breaking LeBron James, and grabbing 13 rebounds, many of which were significant. He had 26 points, those 13 boards, six assists, was perfect from the line, and had five 3s. His six-point, five-rebound third quarter made me feel like I had a pacemaker and he was the battery. Games 2 and 3 mark the first time in his career that he’s had back-to-back 20-point-10-rebound performances, in the regular season or playoffs. But beyond the numbers, Steph was a tourniquet Wednesday night. Whenever the team needed a boost he stopped the bleeding.

Kevin Durant will get the attention for his end-of-game heroics, and he’s been the best player in these Finals, but this is still, aesthetically and mechanically, Steph Curry’s team. There is only one player in the world who I would trust to look off a streaking Durant in the channel and an open Klay Thompson on the wing:

If this season has been a perpetual revelation at what the Warriors have assembled, this game was about remembering who got them to this point.

The Kyrie Irving Game

Live by the Steph, die by the Kyrie. Both defy the odds with every dribble, with every attempt. They do things that we’ve seen point guards do for decades, but make them look like skills from the future. Steph turns the 3-point shot into a backbreaking checkmate that expands the floor to unguardable dimensions, while Kyrie is capable of finishing at the rim over any player, no matter how packed the paint, and no matter how impossible the angle.

It’s a testament to everything frustrating and brilliant about Irving that he had 38 points and can play much better. He kept the Cavs humming as LeBron began his now-customary statistical descent over the back nine of the game.

But for all the dazzling highlights, Irving went 0-for-7 from 3, and got to the line only six times, which is not enough, considering his shot chart:

Kyrie was incredible. He also got lost in his own sauce in the final minutes, trying to make this nutbar shot over Thompson in the waning seconds:

The Kevin Durant Game

That’s the shot that won him the Finals MVP. And this was the game that made me start thinking of Jordan. You think he’s having a pretty good game, look up, and he has 26 or so points. And then the last 3 is the god killer. Durant lurked, and let Steph and Klay go off for most of the game. And then he hammered the nail in the coffin, dug the hole, and buried the Cavs with one shot. LeBron cannot handle him.

There’s nothing left to say. After a year and a half of the sports world being upside down — Leicester this, 3–1 lead that, Clemson the other — this is actually going to work out exactly as Durant hoped.

The LeBron James Game

They are all LeBron James games. Part of the existential gloom hanging over these Finals is the fact that this is as good as a human being can play basketball, and it’s not enough. He’s obviously running out of gas toward the end of the game, but that’s only because he is booster-rocketing the team into the sun and burning up in the process.

The Kevin Love Game

I mean this in the best possible way: Kevin Love played the role of Tristan Thompson in Game 3. Nine points, 13 boards, six steals. It would have been nice if he had been better than 1-for-7 from 3, but that’s not why the Cavs lost.

The Bubba Watson Game

Where did you get those?