The Cleveland Cavaliers have tied up the 2015 NBA Finals with a stunning 95-93 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 on Sunday night at Oracle Arena. LeBron James recorded a triple-double with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the win -- his second straight huge performance to start the series -- and got just enough help elsewhere to steal a game on the road.
Three nights after the Cavaliers went flat in overtime and lost to the Warriors on the road, the team wouldn't waste the opportunity again Sunday. Matthew Dellavedova hit the game-winning free throws with 10.1 seconds remaining in overtime and Golden State was unable to score on either of its last-second opportunities to get the win or force another OT. The Cavs were pumped afterwards, for good reason:
James has been brilliant so far for the Cavaliers in the Finals, looking every bit like the best player in the world while leading a shorthanded team. Cleveland started Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and Dellavedova beside the All-Star forward for Game 2, yet delivered Golden State just its fourth loss at home in either the regular season or playoffs.
Even though the Cavaliers fell short on the court and lost Kyrie Irving to a knee injury for the rest of the series on Thursday, the team came out and made good on James' claims they shouldn't be dismissed. It's hard to say new things about LeBron's greatness at this point, but returning to Cleveland with a 1-1 series is the result of one of the best performances in his storied career.
With Irving sidelined and little ball-handling ability remaining on the roster, the Cavaliers needed James to create offense almost every time down the court. He did just that, putting up his second straight 30-shot performance while dishing out 11 assists in 50 minutes. Some of his best plays were passes to set up the cutting Mozgov or an open James Jones, and while he took 34 shots, he spent a lot of time working to set up others, too. The Warriors clearly decided they would let James shoulder the load and try to beat them, and after he almost did in Game 1, the strategy backfired Sunday. Look at this pass:
James continues to show there's no basketball player like him, and on this night the discussions of whether Stephen Curry had surpassed him as the world's best felt laughable. LeBron was pulling off a performance for the ages with a limited supporting cast, and Curry had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, going 5-of-23 while the Warriors lost a game most thought they never could.
The NBA Finals aren't over now because the Cavaliers have LeBron, and that's enough to keep up with one of the best teams we've ever seen. Game 3 is set for Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
3 things we learned
1. Klay Thompson is dialed in right now
This is what Thompson looks like at his best. The Warriors' shooting guard followed up a good Game 1 with an even better performance Sunday night, scoring 34 points on 14-of-28 shooting and taking over the scoring load with his MVP teammate having an off-night. On the biggest stage possible, we're seeing just how good the Warriors' other star guard can be.
Golden State's decision to keep Thompson over dealing him last year continues to be a brilliant one, and right now we're seeing the 25-year-old at the height of his powers. Like Curry, he's a superb shooter, and we're increasingly seeing him look comfortable putting the ball on the floor and attacking the defense. It's made an already dangerous one-two punch look unstoppable, in part because one is always capable of carrying the load when the other is cold. Thompson hit countless tough shots Sunday, keeping Golden State in the game when the rest of the team wasn't playing as well.
2. The Warriors' offense has been tamed (for now)
The biggest reason Cleveland remains in this series has been the team's impressive work on the defensive end. Golden State usually runs over opponents with its array of scoring weapons, but the Cavaliers have managed to keep the team in check for the most part through two games. The Warriors' point totals don't look bad primarily because both games have included an extra five minutes.
Dellavedova did a great job forcing Curry into several tough shots Sunday, and the result was an ugly night of shooting for the MVP. Mozgov and James were also fantastic, protecting the rim and keeping Golden State away from the shots it was trying to create. The Warriors shot below 40 percent from the field and 23 percent from three-point range with more turnovers (18) than assists (16). It's not often you see Steve Kerr's team unable to get its own chances at will, but so far Cleveland has worked hard to stifle that.
3. Golden State is still letting LeBron get his own
A big part of why the Warriors won Game 1 was their willingness to let James shoulder the Cavaliers' scoring load instead of contributing to a more balanced offense. That strategy was put to work again in Game 2 and the four-time MVP delivered another superb performance to keep his team's offense above water. LeBron took 34 shots on Sunday, three nights after putting up 38 shot attempts -- a career-high, regular season or postseason -- in the series opener, but this time the team got just enough bounces to go their way late.
Cleveland's only effective offensive strategy at this point involves LeBron penetrating the defense to either create for himself or set up a teammate with a pass, but it might be enough to make this series interesting.
SB Nation presents: The 3-pointer has gone from novelty to necessary