Stephen Curry scored 29 points and the Golden State Warriors capitalized on a Cavaliers blunder that sent the game into overtime, withstanding a brilliant 51-point performance by LeBron James to beat Cleveland 124-114 in Game 1 of the NBA finals on Thursday night.
James jawed with both Curry and Klay Thompson at the end of overtime, then Tristan Thompson and Draymond Green tangled moments later and made contact. After replay review, Tristan Thompson received a Flagrant 2 foul and ejection with 2.6 seconds left.
James was in utter disbelief as regulation ended in stunning fashion: George Hill made the first of two free throws with 4.7 seconds left after being fouled by Klay Thompson, but when JR Smith secured the rebound of the second, he dribbled back toward halfcourt instead of shooting, apparently thinking the Cavs had a lead. Instead, it went to OT.
James shot 19 for 32 to go with eight assists and eight rebounds in the opener of his eighth straight NBA Finals and ninth overall, as well as Cavs-Warriors Part IV. James notched his eighth 40-point game during this playoff run to tie Hall of Famer Jerry West’s feat in 1965 for most in a single postseason.
James drove past Curry for a three-point play with 50 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But James was given a foul following a review with 36.4 seconds left and Kevin Durant converted a pair of free throws to tie it at 104. The call had initially been a charge on 2017 Finals MVP Durant and James protested the change.
Durant struggled with his shot but wound up with 26 points on 8-for-22 shooting and nine rebounds.
Golden State got a serious scare when Thompson went down after Smith slid hard into the Splash Brother’s left leg at the 6:17 mark of the first quarter. Thompson lay grimacing in pain then went to the locker room with what was called a bruised left leg that needed retaping. He returned for the start of the second quarter to huge roars from the sellout crowd and scored 24 points. He and Curry each connected on five threes.
The Warriors missed the defensive presence of 2015 NBA finals MVP Andre Iguodala, who missed his fifth straight postseason game dealing with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Game 2 is on Sunday night back at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have won 18 of their last 19 postseason games. In 2015, when the Golden State beat the Cavs to capture the franchise’s first title in 40 years, the first two games of the series went to OT Golden State winning the opener and Cleveland Game 2.