Golden State charged within two triumphs of becoming the first unbeaten NBA playoff champions Sunday by routing reigning trophy-holders Cleveland 132-113 to seize command of the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 33 points while Stephen Curry unleashed his first NBA Finals triple double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to power the Warriors, who set an playoff win streak record of 14 games.
“We’re young. We’re hungry. We’re playing great basketball,” Curry said. “We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us and we’ve got to seize it.”
The Warriors, who welcomed back coach Steve Kerr after he missed 11 games with health issues following 2015 back surgery, grabbed a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Cleveland for games three and four on Wednesday and Friday.
“To see him back on the bench was huge,” Curry said. “For him the whole priority was his health and I think he’s in a good place right now.”
Golden State had won a record 73 regular-season games last year and led 2-0 only for Cleveland to make the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history and swipe the title. So the perfect playoff mark wasn’t overly lauded.
“It has been a great run, but none of that matters unless we can finish the job,” Kerr said. “We know, trust me, we know. It was 2-0 last year and we lost.”
LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists to match a record with his eighth career NBA Finals triple double. Only former Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson had eight prior finals triple doubles. No one else has more than two.
“Right now, it means nothing,” James said minutes after the loss. “But it will mean something. He’s one of the greatest to play this game. When I’m done, I’ll probably look back on it and say it was a cool feat.”
It was only the second time in playoff history that rivals managed triple doubles in the same game, the other in 1970 by New York’s Walt Frazier and Milwaukee’s Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Curry was excited for his statistical feat on a night of fast-paced playmaking and spectacular moves, but disappointed in his eight turnovers, twice what the team had in game one.
“There’s an eight on the stat sheet that I need to correct,” he said. “That’s something that I can control, just being smarter with the ball.”
Kevin Love scored 27 points for Cleveland while Kyrie Irving added 19. Klay Thompson added 22 points for the Warriors.
Durant, seeking his first NBA crown after leaving Oklahoma City last July to join Golden State, became only the third player in NBA history to score 25 points in his first seven NBA Finals appearances, joining Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.
He, too, shrugged off individual glory.
“We know this is far from over. We know how hard it is to be the best team in the league,” Durant said. “So we got to just keep going, keep our foot on the gas and keep getting better every day.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said his team must stay tougher longer defensively after letting the game slip away in the third quarter and the start of the fourth.
“We’ve got to be better as far as not relaxing, not falling asleep, the 50/50 balls, we got to get to those. Every mistake you make defensively, they make you pay, and you saw that,” Lue said.
“We get a chance to go home now to our crowd where we play well. So they won two games. Now we got to go home and regroup.”
CURRY BEATS LEBRON 1-ON-1
Curry seized command in the third quarter with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Warriors stretched a 67-64 half-time lead to 102-88 entering the fourth quarter.
From there, Golden State steadily pulled away, the Cavaliers having no answer for the Warriors speed and outside shooting.
“The second half, we settled in and just tried to play better and played tougher on defense,” Durant said.
The game turned when Curry sank a 3-pointer and two free throws, then dribbled impressively around James for a layup to cap a 10-3 run that put the Warriors ahead 83-73 early in the third.
“He’s a great defender,” Curry said. “You know you have to do something pretty special to score. But for the most part, you can’t focus like you’re on the playground.”
James had 10 first-half assists, the most in any playoff half of his career, while Curry had 15 points as Golden State took a 40-34 lead in the highest-scoring NBA Finals first quarter in 50 years and the second-highest ever.