CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant released his deep shot, the one he always makes in his dreams.
As the ball hung in the air, his plan to win a championship, Golden State’s grip on the series, Cleveland’s last-gasp attempt to defend its title, all of it was on the line.
Durant drained the shot of his professional life — a 3-pointer over LeBron James with 45.3 seconds left — and scored 31 points as the Warriors, pushed harder than they have been throughout their pristine postseason, moved within one win of a title and payback by rallying to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-113 on Wednesday night to take a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors trailed by six with three minutes left before Durant, criticized for leaving Oklahoma City last summer to chase a championship, brought them back, scoring 14 in the fourth.
Klay Thompson added 30 points and Stephen Curry had 26 for this California Dream Team now one win from its second title in three years.
James shook off a knee-buckling blow to the chin while scoring 39 and Kyrie Irving added 38 for the Cavs, who took a 113-107 lead with 3:09 left on J.R. Smith’s 3-pointer.
Curry hit a layup and after both James and Irving missed for the Cavs, Durant dropped his 3 — a shot that could be the one most remembered in this magnificent run by the Warriors.
Durant, though, was not going to be denied. Not after getting this close, not after enduring so much heat for turning his back on the Thunder, not with a chance to put the Cavaliers in an insurmountable hole.
The 7-footer finished 10 of 18 from the field with eight rebounds and four assists. Curry, who has benefited more than any other player by Durant’s arrival and is healthy in these NBA Finals, added 13 rebounds and six assists.
Warriors: Golden State is the 13th team to take a 3-0 lead in Finals, and third since 1996. … Broke the record of 14 straight postseason wins held by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, who did it twice. … Curry has hit at least one 3-pointer in all 73 career postseason games. … Golden State’s nine 3-pointers in the first quarter broke the previous Finals mark held by five teams, most recently the Warriors in 2015.
Cavaliers: James (1,175) passed Sam Jones (1,143), Bill Russell (1,151) and Elgin Baylor (1,161) to move into fourth place on the NBA Finals scoring list. Michael Jordan (1,176) is next. … James became the first player to appear in 20 or more Finals games with two franchises. He played in 23 for Miami. … G Deron Williams has missed each of his 11 shots in the series.