Kevin Durant’s late 3-pointer lifts Golden State Warriors to 3-0 series lead in NBA Finals

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry watches from the bench against the Cavaliers during the second half of Game 3 of the NBA Finals in Cleveland on Wednesday. (AP photo)

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.

Perfect.

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.

“He took over,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You can tell, he knows this is his moment. He’s been an amazing player in this league for a long time, and he senses this is his time, his moment, his team.”

With their 15th straight win, the Warriors now have the longest postseason streak for any team in the four major professional sports.

But that means little to Golden State’s players, who with a victory in Game 4 on Friday night can exorcise those haunting demons from last June when the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals to the Cavaliers.

No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit, and it doesn’t appear any team is equipped to hang with these Warriors, who may go down as one of the best ever. Still, Durant isn’t looking too far ahead.

“I never been in this position before,” said Durant, long accused of not being able to win the big game. “I don’t want to relax. It’s not over. This is a crazy game. Anything can happen. So I don’t want to relax or feel like it’s over, it’s not.”

Klay Thompson added 30 points and Stephen Curry had 26 for this Dream Team now one win from its second title in three years.

If not for their meltdown last year, the Warriors, whose record-setting 73-win season got lost in the Finals aftermath, would be looking for a third straight crown.

“We talked about it since The Finals last year that the last season was a very unique year, for a lot of different reasons, and we learned a lot,” Curry said.

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.