OAKLAND, California — Golden State held off a big performance by LeBron James to beat Cleveland 108-100 in overtime on Thursday to take the opening game of the NBA Finals.
In the finals for the first time in 40 years, the Warriors rallied from an early 14-point deficit, absorbed a finals-best 44 points from James and shut down Cleveland in the extra session.
James shot 18 of 38 from the field and had eight rebounds and six assists in 46 minutes. But the four-time MVP missed a long jumper at the end of regulation, and Cleveland missed its first eight shots of overtime.
Adding to the Cavs' frustration, point guard Kyrie Irving limped to the locker room after aggravating his troublesome left leg in overtime. He did not return.
There were 13 lead changes and 11 ties in a game tightly contested across the board. There was little edge in shooting (Warriors 44.3 percent, Cavaliers 41.5 percent), rebounding (Warriors 48, Cavaliers 45) or assists (Warriors 24, Cavaliers 19).
In the end, it came down to the NBA's top teams and biggest stars making plays — or not.
James and newly crowned MVP Stephen Curry (26 points and eight assists) carried their clubs through the fourth quarter, trading scores and assists in a back-and-forth duel.
Both also had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds of regulation.
With the scores tied, Curry beat Irving off the dribble and moved in for the layup. Instead, Irving blocked the shot from behind, J.R. Smith came up with the rebound and the Cavs called a timeout with 24.1 seconds left.
James dribbled down the clock and missed his jump shot from just inside the left arc. Iman Shumpert just got off a desperation shot which nearly rimmed in at the buzzer, and the game went to overtime.
Curry drew two fouls at the start of overtime and made all four free throws, and Harrison Barnes hit a corner 3 just in front of the Cavs bench to give Golden State a 105-98 lead with 2:02 to play.
Irving limped to the bench trying to shake off his troublesome left leg after the play.
The Warriors went ahead 108-98 on free throws with 1:16 to play, effectively ending the contest. James' uncontested layup with 8.9 seconds left accounted for Cleveland's only points in overtime. (AP)