The Golden State Warriors got their title hopes off to an auspicious start, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime, 108-100, at Oracle Arena on Thursday night to win the opening game of the best-of-seven NBA Finals series. Stephen Curry scored 26 points and Klay Thompson added 21 to lead the Warriors, who are seeking their first NBA title in 40 years.
After a tight 48 minutes, the overtime session was decidedly one-sided. Behind a three-pointer from Harrison Barnes and Curry converting his free throws, the Warriors outscored the Cavs, 10-2.
"We were able to scrap on the defensive end and gain rebounds. We forced them into tough shots. On the offensive end, we were able to spread everybody out," said Curry, when asked about the difference in the two teams' play in overtime.
After getting off to a hot start, the Cavaliers ended the game cold, failing to score all but a concession basket by LeBron James in overtime. James had his best scoring effort in an NBA Finals, pouring in 44 points on 18-28 shooting.
To add to the Cavaliers' woes, Kyrie Irving left for the locker room in overtime after apparently aggravating a left knee injury. The star guard was seen grimacing on the way through the tunnel, and was later seen hunched over at his locker. Irving reportedly could not walk the roughly 12 feet from his locker to the training room without assistance.
The final minute of regulation was filled with excitement. Curry, with a clear path to the basket, had his layup blocked from behind by Irving, and the Cavaliers regained the ball with the score tied, 98-98. With 24.1 seconds remaining, the Cavs went to James, but his three-point shot over Andre Igoudala was off the mark, and the rebound found its way to Iman Shumpert, whose desperation three-point shot just rimmed out at the buzzer.
The Cavaliers jumped out to an early 14-point lead in the first quarter, but the Warriors would use a 14-0 run in the second quarter to regain the lead and create a rather seesaw affair for much of the second half.
"I just felt like the first quarter we looked nervous," said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.
James had 31 points after 31 minutes, but he gave up a costly turnover near the end of third quarter. Igoudala reached in and stripped James, then finished the fast break with a dunk to tie the score. Kerr described Igoudala as "one of the smartest defenders I've ever seen."
The Cavaliers received little help from their reserves, with J.R. Smith scoring just nine points, and on 3-13 shooting. No other bench player scored for the Cavs. The Warriors' bench scored 34 points.
Game 2 is on Sunday at Oracle Arena.