Basketball

Durant's late Durant's late

Friday, June 09, 2017

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CLEVELAND, United States (AFP) — Golden State, powered by Kevin Durant's clutch scoring in the closing minutes, rallied to beat defending champion Cleveland 118-113 Wednesday in the NBA Finals, moving one victory from the first perfect play-off run in league history.Durant scored seven of his 31 points in the Warriors' game-ending 11-0 run, the biggest of them a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that put Golden State ahead to stay at 114-113.

Klay Thompson scored 30 points and Stephen Curry added 26 for the Warriors, who seized a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and stretched their record play-off win streak to 15-0.

They will make the first unbeaten play-off run in NBA history with a victory in game four on Friday at Cleveland.

The Warriors set the North American sports play-off win streak mark with their 15th consecutive triumph, moving past the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins' 14-game run from the 1992 and 1993 Stanley Cup play-offs.

LeBron James scored 39 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and passed off nine assists while Kyrie Irving added 38 points to pace the Cavaliers, but James said he has never faced a “juggernaut” like the Warriors.

No team in NBA play-off history has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, although the Cavaliers did become the first team in NBA Finals history to rally from a 3-1 hole to swipe the crown over Golden State last year.

Irving and James each played about 45 minutes on the court, leaving them fatigued when it mattered most.

Cleveland's JR Smith sank a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers a 113-107 lead, but the Warriors scored 11 points in the final 2:20 for the fightback triumph while the Cavs missed their last eight shots.

Durant, seeking his first career title after joining the Warriors from Oklahoma City last July, and Curry scored on drives to the hoop to pull Golden State within two.

Durant then followed a Kyle Korver 3-pointer miss for Cleveland with a tension-packed 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that put the Warriors ahead 114-113.

Irving missed an off-balance 3-pointer and Durant and Curry each made two free throws on the next Golden State possessions to seal Cleveland's fate.

The win moved Durant one win from the title he sought when he left Oklahoma City for the Warriors last July, one he failed to get in 2012 when his Thunder lost to Miami and James won his first career crown with the Heat.

“It's an exciting time. I've never been in this position, being up in the finals and trying to close it out,” Durant said. “But the job's not done. We've still got a lot of work left to do.”

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