The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors tipped off the NBA Finals a fourth consecutive year and though the defending champions are heavy favorites, Game 1 proved to be competitive for much of the night.
LeBron James led the Cavs with 51 points on 19-for-32 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists. It was James’ eighth 40-point game during this year’s playoffs, tying him with Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer Jerry West (1965) for most in a single postseason.
Great as James was, his efforts were not enough to offset a costly blunder by teammate J.R. Smith. George Hill was fouled with 4.7 seconds remaining in the game and the Warriors clinging to a one-point lead.
Hill made the first attempt but missed his second. Smith walked Kevin Durant under the basket and corralled the offensive rebound. However, rather than put a shot attempt up, he franticly dribbled out of the paint.
Smith passed to Hill, whose 3-pointer was blocked and fell short at the buzzer. The Warriors opened overtime with a 9-0 run and never looked back in their 124-114 victory. The loss was Cleveland’s sixth in a row at Oracle Arena.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 29 points, adding six rebounds and nine assists. Despite a poor shooting night, Kevin Durant scored 26 points. Klay Thompson shook off an injury in the first quarter to finish with 24 points.
Draymond Green flirted with a triple double by notching 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Kevin Love (21 points) and J.R. Smith (10) were the only Cavs players other than James to score in double-figures.
There were also contentious moments in the final minute of overtime, first with Curry and James coming chest to chest and exchanging what appeared to be relatively friendly words. Then Tristan Thompson was ejected, albeit questionably, for fouling Shaun Livingston.
Green celebrated and taunted Thompson over the development, leading to them shoving one another and teammates needing to intervene. The league has not announced if there will be disciplinary action.
The NBA Finals resume Sunday night for Game 2, then shift to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday.
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