Having been humbled by the Pelicans in game three, the Warriors were in no mood to humour the home fans at the Smoothie King Centre, racing into a 14-4 lead early on.
Kevin Durant took his team and possibly the series by the scruff of the next with 38 points off 27 attempts, rebounding nine times. Steph Curry – back from injury – posted 23 and guard Quinn Cook chipped in with 12 from the bench.
Anthony Davis offered 26 for the Pelicans, who now have it all to do if they are to extend their season.
Chris Paul celebrated his 33rd birthday by out-scoring MVP favourite James Harden as the Rockets won.
Paul put up 27 on a rare night when Harden was eclipsed, adding 12 rebounds and six assists for good measure. Clint Capela was outstanding too, offering six blocks, 12 points and 15 redounds.
Twenty-five points from Donovan Mitchell were not enough to fire up the Jazz sufficiently.
Game 4 between the teams is Sunday night and it will once again be crucial for New Orleans to pull out a win to give themselves a fighting chance when the series shifts back to the Bay.
Before Game 4, relive the Pelicans’ strong performance in Game 3 with the highlights below.
LeBron James is just messing around at this point.
James has hit several game-winners throughout his career, but maybe none have been so disrespectfully indifferent as the one to take a 3-0 series lead on Toronto.
After calling timeout following OG Anunoby’s game-tying 3-pointer, the Cavaliers opted to inbound the ball from their own end of the floor instead of advancing it past half-court. The decision allowed James to receive the ball and streak down the court, making it more difficult for the Raptors to trap him without leaving someone on the Cavaliers wide open.
Perhaps Toronto should have taken that risk because what ended up happening was incredibly demoralising.
James not only leapt off his wrong foot (left foot) while going left, he put up a one-handed floater from nine feet out that kissed off the glass and dropped in right in front of the Raptors bench as time expired.
The audacity to attempt a shot with such a high degree of difficulty in that moment was impressive in itself, let alone that James drained it while making it look like something he does with regularity.
“It is very difficult,” James said afterward with a smile. “Don’t try it at home.”
The LeBron-Michael Jordan debate over who is the greatest of all-time may never be settled, but James continues to build his playoff resume with clutch shots.
While Jordan was 5-of-11 with three buzzer-beaters in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in his postseason career, James is now 7-of-15 with five buzzer-beaters, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
One of those buzzer-beaters for James came earlier in these playoffs when he nailed a 3-pointer to life the Cavaliers to a Game 5 win over the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
“I’ve been doing that since I was like six, seven, eight years old,” James said after adding his latest in Game 3 versus Toronto. “Maybe even before that. There’s a picture floating around of me beside a Little Tikes hoop with a saggy Pamper on and I was doing it back then and all the way up until now, at 33.
“Things that you dream about, that you get those opportunities and I’ve been fortunate enough to get a handful of those in some of the biggest moments in my career.”
James and the Cavaliers are now one win away from returning to the Eastern Conference Finals and have the opportunity to close out the series at home in Game 4.