The Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals and may have had an even bigger setback with the loss of one of their best players.
The Golden State Warriors rallied and then romped, coming back from a double-digit first-quarter deficit to win by eight in an overtime dominated by defense.
Golden State leads the series 1-0, with Game 2 scheduled for Sunday in Oakland.
Cavaliers can’t finish at the finish
The Cavaliers went 1-for-13 from the field in the final seven minutes of regulation and missed their first eight shots in overtime before LeBron James' meaningless basket in the final seconds.
After making a 3-pointer with 2:38 left in regulation, James missed his next five shots and committed two turnovers.
James finished with 44 points, the most he’s ever scored in an NBA Finals game. He’s one of four active players to score at least 40 points in a Finals game, the others being Dwyane Wade (twice), Kobe Bryant (once) and Russell Westbrook (once). The 44 points matched Shaquille O’Neal for the most in a Game 1 Finals loss.
James was 7-for-22 outside the paint, his most attempts outside the paint this postseason and in his postseason career. His seven makes matched his high from this postseason.
The Warriors’ top defender against James was Andre Iguodala.
James was 2-of-12 against Iguodala when his shot was not directly preceded by a pass.
Warriors rally after initially struggling
The Warriors trailed 27-17 after the first quarter, the 17 points matching their fewest in any quarter this season. But they got back in the game quickly.
Golden State improved to 18-15 in games in which it trailed by at least 10 points (5-3 in postseason). The Warriors have won all three home games in which they trailed by at least 10 points after the opening quarter.
With 58 seconds left in the first quarter, the Warriors went on a 26-7 run that lasted until the 2:58 mark of the second quarter.
During that run, Golden State shot 12-of-19 from the field, outrebounded the Cavaliers 14-5, and outscored them 14-2 in the paint. Cleveland was 3-of-16 from the field during that span.
Stephen Curry was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the second quarter and scored or assisted on 18 of Golden State’s last 20 points of the half.
Irving filled the box score
Kyrie Irving left with an injury late in overtime, which was significant considering the impact he made in this game.
Irving had 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.
Since the ABA-NBA merger, only Larry Bird (1986) and Michael Jordan (1991) reached those thresholds in an NBA Finals game. Each of them won the title and the Finals MVP award.
Irving’s absence left Cleveland with only two players on the court who scored in the second half -- James (23 points in the half) and Timofey Mozgov (10).
Notes, stats and trends
The Warriors improved to 47-3 at home this season.
The Cavaliers had their seven-game winning streak snapped. They are 0-5 all time in the NBA Finals (were swept by the Spurs in 2007). The Elias Sports Bureau notes they are 1-15 all time in playoff series-opening games on the road.
How long has it been for the Warriors since their last Finals appearance? Elias notes the 40-year span between Finals appearances is the longest all time.
Curry is the first NBA MVP to win Game 1 of the Finals at home since Tim Duncan in 2003.
Klay and Mychal Thompson became the seventh father-son pair to play in the NBA Finals, per Elias. Klay scored 21 points in this win, a family career high for a Finals game, and more than his father scored in any Finals game (Mychal’s high in 18 Finals games was 18 points).
Steve Kerr became the first rookie head coach to win an NBA Finals game since Paul Westphal in 1993 with the Phoenix Suns.
Home teams that win Game 1 of the NBA Finals win the series 78 percent of the time. Home teams that win the first two games are 24-3 in NBA series all time.