Ice cold.
Ice cold.

‘Assassin’: LeBron’s high praise for KD

KEVIN Durant had been somewhat of an afterthought in the opening two games of the NBA Finals.

Despite recording 26 points, six assists and nine rebounds in Game 1, and an ultra-efficient 26 points, seven assists and nine rebounds in Game 2, the reigning NBA Finals MVP had to cede the spotlight to LeBron James and Steph Curry.

In Game 3, he returned to centrestage with a vengeance.

Durant had 43 points, seven assists and 13 rebounds as the Golden State Warriors moved within one win of repeating as NBA champions with a 110-102 win.

On a night Curry may have cost himself a chance at winning his first Finals MVP as he made just 3/16 shots - including 1/10 three-point attempts - to finish with 11 points, Durant was everything Golden State needed as they fought back from a 13-point second quarter deficit.

"I saw LeBron score 29 out of 30 against the Pistons, I said that was the best playoff performance I'd seen since I've been on television," NBA legend Charles Barkley told NBA TV. "This was a close second."

"He won this single-handedly … that was a spectacular performance," Barkley added. "There's nothing you can do, he's a scoring machine."

Durant even produced an eerily similar dagger three to the one he killed off the Cavs with in Game 3 of last year's finals to give Golden State a six-point lead with 50 seconds to play.

This was a masterful performance in every sense.

"Some of those shots, I don't think anybody in the world but him can hit them," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

James' statline was almost as impressive as he finished with a 33-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple double but his outside shot (1/6 threes) wasn't as reliable as other games this postseason.

LeBron and KD go head to head. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
LeBron and KD go head to head. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

He also received more help than normal as Kevin Love (20 points, 13 rebounds) and surprise packet Rodney Hood (15 points, six rebounds) played well.

None of Durant's teammates scored more than 11 as he found himself in a solo role James has played so often. He was good enough to carry his team to a win which sets Golden State up for a sweep on Saturday (AEST) and earned high praise from James

"He's one of the best players I've ever played against and this league has ever seen," James said. "He's a scorer and he's an assassin."

Despite his horror night, Curry shook off his shooting slump when the Warriors needed it, hitting a layup and a wide open three to turn a 97-96 deficit into a 101-97 lead with 2:38 remaining.

James hit a three-pointer to make it 101-100 before Durant fed Andre Iguodala for a dunk and then dropped in a 33-footer.

"Hold Steph to 11 points and Klay (Thompson) to 10, you would think you would win that game," Cavs coach Ty Lue said.

JR Smith (13 points, three steals) was better than he was on the road but Kyle Korver (0/4 for 0 points) continues to be a non-factor and Jeff Green also only managed three points in 18 minutes. "It's been a tough series for Kyle," Love said. "We need to find ways to get him shots."

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