OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) In a tightly called Game 5 of the NBA Finals, it was a no-call involving Kevin Durant that helped the Golden State Warriors pull away from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Durant picked up two fouls in the first quarter while the officiating crew tried to eliminate some of the physical play that was apparent in Game 4.
Knowing Durant had to be careful, LeBron James drove to the rim and threw down a vicious dunk over the Warriors star that gave the Cavaliers a 41-33 lead with less than two minutes gone in the second quarter. James turned to the officials, saying he had been fouled. Replays showed that Durant did hit James on the head, which should have been his third personal foul.
It was a pivotal no-call in the game.
James' dunk gave the Cavaliers all of the momentum. But it could have been so much better for Cleveland.
Had Durant been whistled for the foul, Warriors coach Steve Kerr likely would have had to put him on the bench for the final 10 minutes of the first half. Without their best player, the Warriors would have had more difficulty matching up with James and Kyrie Irving.
Instead, Durant was able to stay on the floor and the Warriors ripped off a 28-4 run that turned an eight-point deficit into a 16-point lead. Durant only scored five points during the surge, but his presence drew so much attention from the Cavaliers defense that open shots were created for his teammates.
The run helped the Warriors win the second quarter by 15 points. In the other three quarters, Cleveland held a four-point advantage.
It all added up to Golden State's second championship in three years.
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