• The Cleveland Cavaliers’ early 13-point lead, it turns out, wasn’t close to big enough. Kevin Durant made sure of that. Behind an effortlessly masterful performance from the reigning Finals MVP, the Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers 110-102 at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night, coming within a single victory of their second consecutive title.

    Game 3 was a throwback of sorts for Durant, who took the reins for Golden State from the opening tip as his star teammates struggled. He scored 43 points on 15-of-23 shooting overall, 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and 7-of-7 at the free throw line, good for a laughable true shooting percentage of 82.4. Durant drained pull-up triples, made hay from the post and generally abused the many overmatched defenders unlucky enough to cover him – from whatever spot on the floor he wanted. He also did a lot more than score, finishing with 13 rebounds and seven assists, and helped force LeBron James into an uncharacteristically average shooting night.

    James’ numbers, to be clear, were stellar. He had 33 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and two blocks on 13-of-28 from the field, which would be a spectacular line for literally any player throughout league history – especially considering the dire circumstances of potentially falling behind three games to none. But through years of postseason brilliance, perhaps cresting over the last seven weeks, James has made sure the basketball world expects something close to his absolute best, and he didn’t provide it on Wednesday night. Clearly lacking confidence in his jumper, James ended up going just 1-of-6 from three and didn’t take a single shot from mid-range. He was also a pedestrian 9-of-15 from the restricted area, missing several makeable attempts, including a pair of uncontested layups in the second quarter.

    Despite Durant’s utter brilliance, Cleveland should still consider Game 3 a missed opportunity. The home team jumped out to a 14-4 lead behind sweet shooting from Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, and led 50-37 with 4:06 left before halftime after Golden State cut their deficit to one by the end of the first quarter. Finally, the Cavaliers’ supporting cast gave James enough help to steal a win against an objectively superior foe. Love scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Smith needed 14 shots to score 13 points, but fared markedly better on both ends of the floor than he was over the first two games of the Finals, playing with notable edge and intensity. And Rodney Hood, dusted off for rotation minutes after falling out of the rotation in the second round, was a revelation, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks on 7-of-11 shooting.

    Combined with Cleveland’s 9-of-31 shooting from deep, though, Durant’s singular night and several impactful efforts from role players helped the Warriors make up for the struggles of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers totaled just 21 points on 27 shots, and made only three of their 15 3-point attempts. Though Curry’s labors were especially evident, his fingerprints were still all over Golden State’s win. The Cavaliers elected to trap him when Love was involved in ball-screen situations, forcing the ball from Curry’s hands and letting the Warriors play the numbers game from there – one they would win over and over.

    Golden State posted a 116.6 offensive rating and doled out 27 assists in Game 3. Draymond Green had 10 points and nine assists, often functioning as a point guard when Cleveland’s newfound aggression defensively made Curry, and sometimes Durant, give up the ball. JaVale McGee and Jordan Bell were the biggest benefactors of that development, each scoring 10 points on an array of above-the-rim finishes. Shaun Livingston continued his highly-efficient Finals, with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, while Andre Iguodala‘s return from a nagging left knee contusion ended with eight points, two rebounds and multiple big defensive plays down the stretch.

    It was Golden State’s superstars, however, who put the Cavaliers away for good. After Cleveland retook the lead on a pair of free throws by Love with 3:11 left in the game, Curry, who’d scored just by that time in the action, ran off five straight points over 20 seconds, first on a backdoor layup from Green and then a pull-up triple in transition following a steal by Iguodala. James’ three, his only long-range make, pulled his team within a single possession less than a minute later. But Durant, who had already grabbed the lead back from Cleveland on three separate occasions in the final stanza, splashed a three of his own from a very familiar spot on the floor the next trip down, putting Golden State up 106-100 with 49.8 seconds left.

    It’s been almost exactly one calendar year since Durant, in another Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena, pulled up from left center and drilled 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of James, bringing the Warriors all the way back from a crunch-time hole. Golden State is up 3-0 again, and Durant, based on Wednesday’s game, is the biggest reason why. Don’t count on history repeating itself on Friday night, though.

    Last year, the Cavaliers had the horses, and inevitable sense of belief that comes with them, to stave off elimination by blowing out Golden State in Game 4. They don’t this time around, and this series has already shown that an all-time performance from James isn’t enough to beat the Warriors. That Golden State won on the road in a game it allowed 15 offensive rebounds and Curry and Thompson failed to make their normal box-score is a harbinger of what’s to come, too – another championship for the Warriors.

    That’s not surprising. For Cleveland and Golden State, though, it won’t make that long-awaited result any less frustrating or gratifying.

Fantasy News

  • Gorgui Dieng - C - Minnesota Timberwolves

    ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that league sources indicate that the Timberwolves prefer to package Jimmy Butler with Gorgui Dieng and the $48 million he’s owed over the next three years.

    Dieng was routinely pulling in top-60 value in 9-cat before Taj Gibson vame to town so a trade to a better situation might do him some good. We’re sure there will be a lot more updates on the Jimmy Butler situation so stay tuned.

    Source: ESPN

  • Tyler Ulis - G - Golden State Warriors

    The Golden State Warriors have signed Tyler Ulis to an Exhibit 10 deal according to Anthony Slater at The Althletic.

    ESPN’s Marc J. Spears also reported that Ulis chose the Warriors over the Rockets and the Kings. Ulis will get to join the team for training camp and the Exhibit 10 deal offers a little more protection from the Warriors’ end, but it’s hard to see how Ulis will fit in their plans. If he sticks, he won’t have any fantasy value barring an injury, and if he ends up getting waived we’ll have to see if he signs with the Dubbs’ G-League squad or pursues other opportunities.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Emeka Okafor - C - Philadelphia Sixers

    The Philadelphia Sixers have signed Emeka Okafor to a training camp deal one day before the start of camp.

    Even if the ancient Okafor manages to stick on the roster, he shouldn’t be anything more than a veteran presence.

    Source: Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic - G - Sacramento Kings

    The Sacramento Kings have announced that Bogdan Bogdanovic will have an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee on Monday.

    There was no time-table given but these usually have a recovery of 4-to-6 weeks. There should be an update after the surgery on Monday but it looks like Bogi will miss the beginning of the season. As we previously reported, this is the same left knee that he had surgery on earlier this summer to repair a slight medial meniscus tear. Two surgeries in the span of a few months doesn't sound good and this'll be a big red flag come draft time. It's good news for Buddy Hield however.

    Source: Marc J Spears on Twitter

  • Jimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Woj is reporting that despite rebuffs from Minnesota’s front office regarding Jimmy Butler, owner Glen Taylor informed participants of the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting that Butler is indeed available and that they should contact him personally if necessary.

    Wow. It looks like things are escalating behind the scenes with Taylor and Thibodeau issuing opposing directives regarding disgruntled Jimmy Butler. It seems like Butler is close to being moved and Thibs could be next to follow him out the door.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • DeAnthony Melton - G - Phoenix Suns

    The Phoenix Suns have signed newly obtained De’Anthony Melton to a two-year, $2.3 million rookie deal.

    The Suns obtained Melton from the Rockets for Ryan Anderson and Brandon Knight earlier this summer so this signing was always going to happen at some point. With Devin Booker (hand) probably out to start the season and not a whole lot of options to start at point guard, Melton could be a nice surprise. We’ll have to see what the preseason brings.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Adam Silver - Commissioner - Invalid Team

    The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved three changes to the rule book for this season dealing with resetting the shot-clock on an offensive rebound, simplifying the clear path rules and expanding the definition of a “hostile act.”

    The first tweak is that the shot-clock will reset reset to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the usual 24 seconds. The second change is to the clear-path rule- now, it is defined as a personal foul against any offensive player during his team’s transition scoring opportunity so refs won’t have to determine if the defender was in front of the ball or not, or if the defender beat the offensive player to the frontcourt. The last chance will be expanding the definition of a “hostile act” to allow for additional replay for off-ball or other altercations.

    Source: NBC Sports

  • Markelle Fultz - G - Philadelphia Sixers

    Markelle Fultz denied having the “yips” last season and said his struggles shooting the ball were due to his shoulder injury.

    This is the opposite of what shooting guru Drew Hanlen said over the summer when he asserted that Fultz had the “yips” and “completely forgot how to shoot.” We’re thinking as a young player, Fultz probably wants to protect his ego and maybe his image- despite recent headway made in the NBA dealing with mental health issues, nobody wants to admit to being psychologically ‘soft.’ At this stage it’s rather irrelevant as to why; we just want to see if Fultz can shoot it or not. Preseason games start soon and we’ll have the popcorn ready.

    Source: Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News

  • Jimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    According to Jon Krawczynski at The Athletic, Jimmy Butler might not show up to training camp if he isn't traded.

    We previously relayed Woj's report that the Wolves were not planning to trade Butler so it looks like both parties are ratcheting up their rhetoric before the season starts. Butler is a notoriously stubborn guy as is coach Thibs so we'll see who wins this head-butting battle. The writing's on the wall for Butler's time in Minnesota, so it's only a matter of when. Tom Thibodeau could be following him out the door as owner Glenn Taylor has been dissatisfied with his old-school tactics.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Carmelo Anthony - F - Houston Rockets

    Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he wants wants Carmelo Anthony on the floor when P.J. Tucker is off, and vice versa because he sees them both as power forwards.

    It was widely assumed that Melo and Tucker would start together but now it appear to not be the case so maybe James Ennis is the starter at the 3. We’ll have to see how his rotation shakes out and if Melo’s staggered minutes coincide with Chris Paul’s. Either way, Melo looks to have a decreased role on offense as James Harden and Chris Paul control the offense.

    Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter