CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The Golden State Warriors showed what champions are made of on Monday night and precisely why they triumphed over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals last season.
The Western Conference leaders, led by Kevin Durant, put up an impressive fourth-quarter display with a 20-6 scoring run to win 118-108 at Cleveland. In contrast, the Cavs missed 17 of 23 shots in the final quarter of the pulsating clash.
"It seemed like the rim just got smaller and smaller," Cleveland star forward LeBron James said.
"But I like our effort. If we continue that going into our next few games, then I like where we are."
Durant scored 32 points for the Warriors, added seven assists and pulled down four rebounds as Golden State completed back-to-back wins over the Cavs following their 99-92 win on Christmas Day.
James and Cleveland had been determined to halt a three-game losing streak by beating the Warriors, who they have faced in the last three editions of the NBA Finals.
Golden State led 93-91 heading into the fourth quarter and, with their opponents starting to tire, the champions turned the screw.
A Draymond Green lay-up put the Warriors 10 points clear at 105-95 with 5min 44sec on the clock and the visitors went further ahead when Nick Young made a 21-foot jump shot to make it 113-99.
Durant ended a fine night's work with a sublime 26-foot three-pointer to extend the lead to 116-104.
Stephen Curry finished with 23 points and added eight assists with four rebounds. Green (11) and Klay Thompson (17) also made double figures.
For Cleveland, James finished with 32 points, with Isaiah Thomas adding 19 and Kevin Love 17.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said an improved defensive effort in the second half had laid the foundation for the win.
"I was a little upset at half-time just because we weren't guarding anybody, we didn't play with much intensity," he said.
"We were going against a team we've played in the NBA Finals for three straight years. We should have had more intensity at the start of the game.
"But it wasn't there - fortunately we got it going in the second half. We challenged shots a lot better in the second half."
Consecutive road victories for the Warriors beginning with their 127-123 OT win over the LA Lakers on Nov 29.
The win saw the Warriors improve to 36-9, the best record in the NBA. Cleveland are at 26-17, and are struggling to pull out of a slump in form which has included eight defeats in their last 10 games.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS