LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers
May 31, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Just about everyone picked the Golden State Warriors to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals. The defending champions took a step toward proving those predictions right with a Game 1 victory, though LeBron James and Co. nearly stole a win on the road. It could mean that the overwhelming favorites won’t roll through the Cavs like we all thought.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr certainly seems to feel that way after watching his team nearly blow the series opener at home.

“It’s the Finals. It’s not gonna be easy,” Kerr said in Thursday’s post-game press conference. “I know that everyone has been saying and writing that it’s gonna be easy. It’s not gonna be easy. We’re playing a great team. They’ve been to the Finals four years in a row just like we have for a reason.”

In the final minute of Game 1, Golden State got the benefit of a reverse charge call by the refs, a missed free throw by George Hill and a boneheaded mistake by J.R. Smith. If any of those plays didn’t go the Warriors’ way, they’d probably be facing a 0-1 series deficit.

Cleveland was in a position to win because of James and his historic performance. He became the sixth player ever to score at least 50 points in an NBA Finals game, finishing with 51 points on an astounding 59.4 percent shooting. James added eight rebounds and eight assists, nearly doing enough to win on the road while getting little help on offense from his supporting cast.

“They have a guy who’s playing basketball at a level that I’m not sure anyone’s ever seen before when you consider everything he’s doing,” said Kerr, who won three titles with Michael Jordan as a player with the Chicago Bulls.

James did whatever he wanted against Golden State. He took advantage of switches on pick and rolls, getting to the hoop at will for easy buckets. When James saw that there was help waiting for him in the paint, he nailed jump shots, including three of this seven three-point attempts. He turned double teams into open shots for teammates, though they missed plenty of opportunities.

For anyone that’s been watching James this year, his performance Thursday night didn’t come as a surprise. It’s close to what he’s done all postseason long. The three-time champion is averaging 34.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game on 54.6 percent shooting in 19 playoff games.

Maybe James won’t score 50 points again, but he’s going to be the best player in this series. His teammates could play better, especially when the series moves to Cleveland.

Other than James, the Cavs shot seven-of-30 from behind the arc. Kevin Love and Jeff Green went a combined two-of-14, missing some open looks. They could get even better shots as Golden State adjusts and does more to prevent James from scoring.

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all played well in a game that the Warriors easily could’ve lost. They had trouble with the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals and might be in for another difficult series on their way to a third title in four years.

“Hell, no,” Kerr replied when asked if he was disappointed that Golden State needed late-game breaks to defeat Cleveland. “We’re Up 1-0, that’s all we wanted. And you take any win any way you can get it. Hopefully, this will dispel this notion that this is going to be easy. Because we never thought so.”