Kevin Durant scored 38 points as the Golden State Warriors made sure they didn’t blow another big lead by routing the Los Angeles Clippers 132-105 in game three of their playoff series on Thursday.
The Warriors ensured there was no repeat of game two, where they squandered a 31-point lead in the second half, allowing the Clippers to engineer the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history.
Golden State compiled another huge lead at almost the identical part of Thursday’s game by taking a 88-57 lead with 7:10 left in the third quarter.
Durant made sure the outcome was different this time. He finished 14-for-23 from the floor and was just five points shy of his playoff career high despite playing only 29 minutes.
“He was aggressive from the start at both ends,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “He attacked. He showed everybody who Kevin Durant is.”
After taking just 24 shots and totaling 44 points in the first two games of the series, Durant came out blazing in game three, hitting his first six shots.
“The coach made some subtle changes. Other than that everybody stuck to the game plan,” said Durant.
Now down 2-1, the Clippers also will host game four in the best-of-seven set on Sunday.
Stephen Curry, who battled foul trouble most of the night, supported Durant with 21 points for the Warriors. Lou Williams, who led the greatest comeback in playoff history with 36 points in game two, was held to just 16 points.
Also, Ben Simmons dominated on the inside and Tobias Harris fired away from the perimeter as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 131-115 to take a 2-1 lead in their opening round playoff series.
Simmons scored a NBA career postseason high 31 points and Harris tallied 29 and 16 rebounds for the Sixers.
Philadelphia won despite missing all-star Joel Embiid, who took part in the warm-up but was unable to play because of a sore knee. Greg Monroe started in his place and finished with 13 rebounds and nine points.
Simmons shot 11 of 13 from the field and added nine assists while Harris was a perfect six-for-six from beyond the arc.
JJ Redick was five of nine from three-point range and had 26 points.
D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert each scored 26 points for the Nets, who have dropped the last two games after surprising the No. 3 seed in the opener in Philadelphia.
Elsewhere, Derrick White scored a career-high 36 points as the San Antonio Spurs seized a 2-1 series lead with a 118-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
White shot 15-of-21 from the field as the seventh seeded Spurs can take a stranglehold lead in the best-of-seven series with a win in game four on Saturday at home.
Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan scored 21 of 25 points in the second half while LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Rudy Gay came off the bench to finish with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Jakob Poeltl and Bryn Forbes added 10 points each in the win.
Nikola Jokic scored 10 points for the second seeded Nuggets who have now lost 14 consecutive games in San Antonio dating back to 2012.
Malik Beasley added 20, Paul Millsap scored 14 points, Gary Harris and Torrey Craig contributed 12 points apiece and Monte Morris tallied 10 for the Nuggets.
Jamal Murray, who had 24 points in the Nuggets’ game two win, was held to just six points.
Results from the first round of the NBA playoffs
Philadelphia 131 Brooklyn 115
(Philadelphia leads series 2-1)
Golden State 132 Los Angeles 105
(Golden State leads series 2-1)
San Antonio 118 Denver 108
(San Antonio leads series 2-1)