In a game that featured 15 lead changes and 17 ties, the Golden State Warriors withstood an epic performance by LeBron James to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-114 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Steph Curry scored 29 and Klay Thompson added 24 in the win, with the Splash Brothers combining to make 10-of-21 (47.6%) from three-point range. Kevin Durant had 26 points and nine rebounds in the win.
James scored 51 points, the sixth 50-point game in NBA Finals history, and also added eight rebounds and eight assists in defeat. James has eight games with 40 or more points in these playoffs, matching Jerry West for the most such games in a single postseason.
After George Hill made a free throw with 4.7 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, he missed the second free throw. J.R. Smith grabbed an offensive rebound but then dribbled out the clock, thinking the Cavs had a lead.
They did not, and when Golden State scored the first nine point of overtime, this one was effectively over.
Kevin Love returned from a concussion to score 21 points and grab 13 rebounds for Cleveland, who shot 44.9% as a team.
Draymond Green missed a triple-double by one assist, scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the win, while adding five steals and three blocks.
Game 2 is Sunday night at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors are 9-1 this postseason and 38-13 all season.
Warriors 124, Cavaliers 114 (Final, OT)
It was all Golden State in the extra period, outscoring Cleveland 17-7 in the final five minutes.
Cavaliers 107, Warriors 107 (End 4Q)
We have overtime in Oakland. Cleveland had the ball with five seconds left, and a timeout, but J.R. Smith inexplicably dribbled out the clock, apparently thinking the Cavaliers had a lead.
Cavaliers 104, Warriors 102 (0:53.1, 4Q)
LeBron James has a new personal NBA Finals career high with 47 points, including somehow getting this to fall while getting fouled for a Cleveland advantage in the final minute, the 14th lead change of the game.
Warriors 94, Cavaliers 92 (5:51, 4Q)
LeBron James is up to 40 points as Cleveland claws its way back. It’s his seventh career 40-point game in the NBA Finals. Only Jerry West has more, with eight.
The eyes have it
Warriors 84, Cavaliers 78 (End 3Q)
Golden State was on the better end of yet another third quarter, outscoring Cleveland 28-22 on Thursday night. Entering the fourth, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry each have 21, and the Warriors have 23 assists on 34 field goals, with 12 minutes to play.
LeBron James has 36 points on 13-of-21 shooting to lead all scorers, and Kevin Love already has a double-double with 16 and 11. Pretty amazing James was able to concentrate under these conditions:
Cavaliers 68, Warriors 68 (5:26, 3Q)
Cleveland had a third quarter run in them as well. LeBron James is up to 31 points on just 13 shots, including a three-pointer to give us our ninth tie of Game 1.
Also about JaVale McGee, well ...
Warriors 66, Cavaliers 59 (9:02, 3Q)
Oh hello, JaVale McGee. The Golden State big man started in the second half and paid immediate dividends, contesting LeBron James on defense and also getting two quick dunks on offense. It’s a 10-3 run in three minutes for the Warriors to start the third.
Warriors 56, Cavaliers 56 (halftime)
Cleveland built an 11-point lead at one point but the Warriors fast forwarded their usual third quarter run into the second, tying things up on this 30-footer by Steph Curry at the halftime buzzer.
LeBron James leads all scorers with 24 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and Kevin Love had 12 points and six boards in his first half back from his concussion protocol.
Cavaliers 51, Warriors 45 (3:26, 2Q)
Jordan Clarkson carried over his unfortunate slip during warmups into the game, just 1-for-6 in his 10 minutes, including 0-for-3 on threes so far.
Cavaliers 44, Warriors 40 (6:25, 2Q)
LeBron finally missed, but only once. He’s up to 20 points and 8-of-9 field goals, including this Statue of Liberty-esque layup:
Cavaliers 36, Warriors 33 (9:45, 2Q)
LeBron James has yet to miss a field goal, 6-for-6 with 16 points out of the gate, including getting inside with this dunk:
Cavaliers 30, Warriors 29 (End 1Q)
If the entire NBA Finals is like the first quarter of Game 1, this will be a fun series. Eight lead changes and six ties highlighted a back-and-forth opening 12 minutes. The two All-Star captains led in scoring, with LeBron James netting 12 points and Steph Curry 11, the latter including this pretty bank shot:
Thompson heads to locker room
Klay Thompson got caught up with J.R. Smith and suffered what the Warriors called a left lateral leg contusion, and is expected to return. Thompson was removed from the game with 6:17 left in the first quarter and went back to the Warriors locker room. Thompson returned to the bench with just over a minute remaining in the quarter.
Klay Thompson leaves game after JR Smith accidentally slips into his legs pic.twitter.com/pphfrbKWaE— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 1, 2018
Thompson suffered a left knee strain during the Western Conference Finals and was listed as questionable for Gmae 5 but didn’t miss any games in that series.
Cavaliers 15, Warriors 12 (6:50, 1Q)
LeBron James has an early nine points to give Cleveland a lead with each team feeling each other out in the first few minutes of the Finals. Steph Curry nailed one three, which helped give him the opportunity to find Kevin Durant for this easy alley oop on a 2-on-1 break:
Need a seat?
There were some surprisingly affordable seats available up near tip time on Thursday.
The stands in Oakland
Warriors fans at Oracle Arena were given these yellow “Strength in Numbers” T-shirts before the game.
If LeBron James and the Cavaliers come up short in Game 1, we now know why:
No longer does LeBron James have Kyrie Irving to lean on to score the ball. As we’ve learned through the first three rounds, the scoring weight has mostly shifted onto him, with varying contributions from Kevin Love, Jeff Green and Kyle Korver.
It’s a big reason why the Warriors are such an overwhelming favorite.
Warriors vs. Cavaliers Game 1
Date: May 31
When: 9 p.m. ET
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland
Stream: ABC Live Stream
Golden State will be down Andre Iguodala though, who was ruled out Wednesday afternoon. He’s still suffering from a left lateral leg contusion that held him out of the last four games of the Western Conference Finals. For Cleveland, Love was cleared to play hours before the game after entering the concussion protocol following Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
These teams know each other all too well now. So far, they’ve traded championship wins since 2015, with the most exciting series coming a year later after Cleveland overcame a 3-1 deficit.
The odds are stacked against the Cavs to win this one. The talent disparity is so great after Golden State added Kevin Durant.
But nobody can ever feel comfortable ruling out LeBron James.