June 7, 2018, 12:45 am
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.
— NBA (@NBA) June 7, 2018
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.
KDTREY! 😮😮😮 pic.twitter.com/m1IaARjJd7
— NBA (@NBA) June 7, 2018
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.
December 10, 2018, 12:00 amTyler Johnson - G - Miami Heat
Tyler Johnson is questionable to play on Monday after suffering a left hip contusion in Saturday's game.
Johnson's injury really left the Heat in a bind as they were stuck with eight active players. Derrick Jones Jr. stepped up but Dwyane Wade and Justise Winslow produced the biggest lines in their extended work. Goran Dragic will be available tomorrow, which will also help things substantially. Johnson had a chance to put a nice run together with The Dragon out but got hurt himself — twice.
Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter
December 9, 2018, 11:56 pmWayne Ellington - G - Miami Heat
Wayne Ellington (personal) is probable for Monday's game.
Ellington appears set to return after missing the last two games to attend his grandmother's funeral. The Heat need all the help they can get with Tyler Johnson hurt again so we'd expect Ellington to get his usual minutes. He's a 3-point specialist and will limit the shot at production for Dwyane Wade, Derrick Jones Jr. and Justise Winslow — basically anyone else on the team.
Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter
December 9, 2018, 11:14 pmDeMarcus Cousins - C - Golden State Warriors
DeMarcus Cousins is expected to practice with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the G-League on Monday.
Cousins continues to work his way back into shape after suffering an Achilles tear last season. He's aiming to return around Christmas and all reports about his progress have been positive so far. Him working in an actual team setting is another big step in the process, even if it is in the G-League. He's worth scooping up if you think you can make it through the next month without production from one of your roster spots.
Source: Marc J. Spears on Twitter
December 9, 2018, 10:22 pmFrank Ntilikina - G - New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting with four 3-pointers as the Knicks lost to the Hornets on Sunday.
He outplayed starter Emmanuel Mudiay, who scored six points with three rebounds and four assists on 3-of-9 shooting. The Knicks’ point guard situation is a mess and minutes change frequently, so neither of them are worth owning in fantasy.
December 9, 2018, 10:19 pmNoah Vonleh - F - New York Knicks
Noah Vonleh did not play well against the Hornets on Sunday with only three points on 1-of-5 shooting, but he did contribute 10 rebounds and a career-high nine assists.
Vonleh has seen consistent minutes as the starting power forward for the Knicks and his value currently sits right outside the top-100. He is a must-own in deep leagues and will provide solid late-middle round value this season. However, head coach David Fizdale's rotations can change at any moment, which means Vonleh's minutes can change so keep an eye on the Knicks' rotation from game-to-game.
December 9, 2018, 10:15 pmKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry fell to a new low with his 0-for-5 shooting night on Sunday against the Bucks.
This is the first time in Lowry's career that he's been held under 10 points for five straight games. To call this a slump would be unfair. Luckily as a point guard, Lowry does more than just score and has been returning top-120 value over his last four games despite shooting under 15 percent during that stretch. Lowry finished tonight's game with zero points, five boards, seven assists and a block in 34 minutes.
Source: Chris Black on Twitter
December 9, 2018, 10:14 pmTrevor Ariza - F - Phoenix Suns
The Lakers are one of the teams making a run at Trevor Ariza, they're currently in discussions to swing a three-team deal.
Ariza might struggle as a fantasy asset in Los Angeles given how many swingmen they have. If you own Ariza you're hoping that he finds his way back to the Rockets. The Suns are hoping to get a young guard and a draft pick in any deal for Ariza and the Lakers seem to be searching for a suitor willing to take on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
December 9, 2018, 10:14 pmMitchell Robinson - C - New York Knicks
It was reported that Mitchell Robinson suffered a shoulder injury on Suday before halftime of the Knicks game.
Robinson has played his regular allotment of minutes in the second half and hasn't looked hurt at all. Maybe we'll learn more on this after the game.
Source: Stefan Bondy on Twitter
December 9, 2018, 10:13 pmEnes Kanter - C - New York Knicks
Enes Kanter did not play well on Sunday with six points and four rebounds on 3-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes in a loss to the Hornets.
He is the best player to own on the Knicks roster right now at top-70 value, but people were hoping for more from Kanter and David Fizdale's rotations are crushing those hopes. He will have inconsistent performances due to varying minutes, but he will still provide middle-round value as long as he is typically seeing minutes in the 20's.
December 9, 2018, 10:10 pmKevin Knox - F - New York Knicks
Kevin Knox saw 41 minutes on Sunday and put up 26 points and 15 rebounds on 10-of-25 shooting in a loss to the Hornets.
He made four 3-pointers and added on steal to the box score as well. This is one of his best games of the season, but he is still not worth owning in fantasy due to the possibility that head coach David Fizdale could play him low minutes next game. The rotations are inconsistent for the Knicks and makes owning any player a difficult task. Mario Hezonja was awful in this game with zero points on 0-of-3 shooting in five minutes. Look to see if Fizdale starts Knox over Hezonja going forward.