"But we should probably go back to Kevin Durant, shouldn't we? That was amazing... some of those shots, I don't think anyone can hit them but him."
-- Steve Kerr, Who Has Stephen Curry
* * *
The Golden State Warriors have spent the entire 2017-18 season showing the National Basketball Association how degree of difficulty works, and Game 3 of The Finals Wednesday night was the piece de resistance.
Kevin Durant, blistered nationally and by his own words for trying to take control of Game 1, took control of Golden State's 110-102 victory over the Cleveland LeBrons in the belly of the banking beast with an extra-planetary 43-point (on 23-shot) performance that also included 13 rebounds, seven assists and a 33-foot jumper with 49.8 seconds left to stomp flat an otherwise fascinating game and tell the world that nothing – not even savage six-day-old reviews – is insurmountable.
Durant's performance was so magnificently constructed that it obliterated the following otherwise commentable things:
• Stephen Curry's hideous shooting, redeemed only by a brazen drive and open trey late to make him the second-leading scorer with – wait for it – 11.
• Klay Thompson's not quite hideous shooting.
• The understated but noticeably brilliant support work of JaVale McGee, Andre Iguodala and Jordan Bell.
• LeBron James' ongoing struggle to bend the game to his will (as though 33/10/11 should be judged as anything less than his duty), and Rodney Hood's improbable resuscitation.
• An early Cleveland lead of as much as 13 points, a typical Warrior third quarter (the Warriors are now 16-4 in third quarters this postseason and for the year their third quarters alone would make them the second seed in the East) and a drumhead-tight fourth quarter that magnified the sunbeams emanating from Durant's skull.
Durant eradicated all lingering memories of all those things with his best postseason performance, and now the Warriors are a game and two days away from doing the only thing they haven't done to the Cavs.
And not just any old run-of-the-mill sweep, but a cold-blooded, soul-shriveling, awe-inducing sweep in the face of seemingly ridiculous odds that would, if the Warriors close out the matter Friday night, prove that Golden State knew how good it was all those times they didn't seem to apply their full faculties to the problem at hand.
And yes, the Warriors winning a Finals game on the road against LeBron James without even a hint of Curry or Thompson can fairly be considered "ridiculous odds."
They have known all along this year that they have more weapons than anyone else, and they know that they get to show their weapons at their best in the most important moments.
And Wednesday's was Durant's two-hour, nineteen-minute moment of moments. His occasional bouts of insecurity, his penchant for public introspection, even his still-criticized decision to complete his career by enhancing those of his teammates – they all are reduced to asterisks by this game, more than any similar game he has ever had.
Of course, not everyone will see it with a simple matter of crystalline beauty based on the old real estate adage of location, location, location. The ever chatty Phoenix Sun Jared Dudley tweeted:
"After this Ring I hope KD goes somewhere else and tries to win one with his own team. He got his validation. He's one of the best in the World it's time. Just my opinion. Not suppose to be this easy."
But it's what Durant has wanted all along – to be in Oakland, with these men, providing otherworldly things when those around him could not, and showing that whatever else the world may conclude, there is deep and abiding satisfaction of being an equal among equals atop an entire sport, capable of saving his fellow equals with deeds like Wednesday's.
In short, even if it isn't supposed to be this easy, it's okay that it is occasionally this incandescent. Degree of difficulty concerns just make it emanate more brightly.
|Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
|Warriors 122, Cavs 103
|Warriors 110, Cavs 102
|Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm
|Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm
|Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm
|Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm