NBA Finals: What’s it like to face the Warriors? LeBron James says it’s ‘like playing the Patriots’

Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors celebrate with Kevin Durant #35 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half during Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

How big is the gap between the Cavaliers and Warriors? Just look at Cleveland’s razor-thin margin for error and Golden State’s not-so-small margin for error.

The Cavaliers got a triple-double from LeBron James and a combined 48 points from Kevin Love, Rodney Hood and JR Smith. But that wasn’t enough in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, and neither was a 51-point performance from James in Game 1.

The Warriors got a 3-of-16 shooting performance from Stephen Curry and a 4-of-11 shooting performance form Klay Thompson, as the Splash Brothers combined for just 21 points on 3-of-15 shooting from 3-point range. But that was actually enough because Golden State also has Kevin Durant.

“This is the beauty of this team and the luxury that we have of having multiple big-time scorers,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said to reporters. “There’s going to be nights like this for all of them. Steph was 3 for 16, 1 for 10, but as usual he hit a big one. … But we’ve got a lot of guys who can score and fill it up, and they lift each other up if one of them is having a tough night. Yeah, it’s pretty nice, a pretty nice luxury as a coach, that’s for sure.”

Durant dominated the game with 43 points on 15-of-23 shooting, 13 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Warriors to a 110-102 win over the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Finals. Golden State is now up 3-0 in the series and will try to become the first team to win the Finals in a four-game sweep since the Spurs did it against the Cavaliers in 2007.

“The margin of error is very low,” James said of facing the Warriors. “It’s almost like playing the Patriots, you can’t have mistakes. They’re not going to beat themselves.”

How good was Durant on Wednesday? He became the first player in Finals history to record at least 43 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in a game, and joined Russell Westbrook and Charles Barkley as the only players to ever put up those numbers in a playoff game.

The Cavaliers now find themselves down 3-0 in the Finals for the second consecutive season. Cleveland earned a 21-point win over Golden State in Game 4 last season to force a fifth game, but that’s as far as the Cavaliers could extend the series last year.

Cleveland will try to avoid the sweep again in Friday’s Game 4. But no NBA team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, so the Warriors’ championship parade seems inevitable at this point.

And so does another Finals loss for James.

Warriors giving LeBron Heat flashbacks: To describe how much pressure the Warriors’ overwhelming talent puts on opponents, James brought up the Heat’s two Finals matchups with the Spurs in 2013 and 2014.

“Well, I can take you back kind of to the battles I had with the Spurs when I was in Miami,” James said. “You just knew that they wouldn’t beat themselves. You just knew that like every possession we were playing San Antonio when I was in Miami, you just knew if you made a mistake, Manu [Ginobili], Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker], [Gregg Popovich] will make you pay. At times they did make us pay, and then you sprinkle in what Gary Neal did to us one game, what Danny Green did to us one game. Then Kawhi [Leonard], you just couldn’t — you could never relax. When you have great basketball players but also that can also think the game and be very cerebral about the game, that’s what adds the level of stress, because you know that you can never, ever relax. And you should never want to relax. It’s the Finals. It’s the playoffs.”

The third-quarter Warriors are the best Warriors: Golden State is great, but it somehow takes it to another level in third quarters. After outscoring the Cavaliers 31-23 in Wednesday’s third period, the Warriors have now outscored opponents by 141 points in that quarter during the playoffs. Golden State is also shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point territory in the third over its postseason run. That’s dominant. The Warriors are pretty good the rest of the time, too, though. Golden State has outscored opponents by 46 points outside of the third quarter during the playoffs.

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