OAKLAND -- Lucky.
That’s what the Golden State Warriors could feel Thursday night.
The Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals with a 108-100 overtime triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena. But don’t be fooled. Golden State’s penchant for falling behind at home lately in the postseason almost cost them.
The Warriors could feel good, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the first quarter to come within three wins of the team’s first championship since 1975.
But the mood would have been considerably different had Iman Shumpert’s 21-foot shot off a LeBron James miss gone in at the end of regulation.
When the ball left Shumpert’s hand, many of the Warriors were resigned to heading to Sunday’s Game 2 down in the series.
“I didn’t even think we were going to have overtime because I thought Iman’s follow was going in,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “It looked good the whole way. It was right on line. It was maybe a few inches short. But I thought the whole bench thought it was going in.”
That miss helped the Warriors withstand the onslaught of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and hold the Cavaliers scoreless in overtime until there were 9.5 seconds left in the extra period.
Cleveland’s two overtime points tied the fewest in an overtime game in the Finals in the shot-clock era, since 1954-55.
That’s how Golden State withstood 44 points, eight rebounds and six assists from James and 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists from Irving, who left the game in overtime with a left knee injury and needed crutches to exit the arena. Irving will have an MRI on his knee Friday.
The Cavs gave the Warriors plenty of scares before overtime and actually had two chances to win in regulation.
Before Shumpert’s miss, James had the ball and the opportunity to cap his highest-scoring Finals game with a game-winning shot.
James was matched up against Andre Iguodala, who contested James’ step-back jumper from 21 feet well with 3.8 seconds to play.
“At the end of the day, we gave ourselves a chance, man,” James said. “I missed a tough one. But we had so many opportunities to win this game, and we didn’t. It’s up to us now to look at film, watch and make some adjustments.”
Cleveland seemed to have its energy sapped by the two late misses while the Warriors, realizing how close they had come to losing, found a second wind in overtime.
“I thought we came out of the regulation flat and without the kind of energy that we displayed throughout the game,” said Cleveland coach David Blatt.
While the Warriors might feel lucky, Cleveland left Oracle realizing it blew a chance to take the homecourt advantage in the best-of-seven series.
It won’t be any easier Sunday if Irving can’t play. He missed two games against Atlanta during the Eastern Conference Finals because of knee tendinitis. The Cavs won both games, but the Warriors are much better than Atlanta.
No Irving would put more strain on a bench that was largely silent for Cleveland.
“If Kyrie can’t go, Delly’s number (Matthew Dellavedova’s) is going to be called, and everyone else has to pick each other up,” James said. “They outscored us 35-9 (34-9) on bench points. But you know, we still had a chance to win.”
Stephen Curry had26 points and eight assists, both team highs, for Golden State. Klay Thompson had 21 points, and Golden State’s renowned depth helped it overcome James and Irving.
Besides defending James and forcing him into tough shots, Iguodala had 15 points off the bench.
Still, the Warriors don’t want to get in the habit of falling behind big early and giving up huge games to James.
“We’ve got to start the game better, get settled into the game a lot quicker than we did tonight,” Curry said. “ ... Obviously there are going to be adjustments here and there, and we’ll figure that out, but you’ve got to compete, and that’s the bottom line.”
And maybe get a little lucky, too. That was enough in Game 1.
Best-of-seven series will be televised on Ch. 10
- Game 1: Golden State 108, Cleveland 100 (OT)
- Sunday: at Golden State, 5p.m.
- at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Thursday, June 11:
- at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Sunday, June 14:
- at Golden State, 5p.m.*
- Tuesday, June 16:
- at Cleveland, 6p.m.*
- Friday, June 19:
- at Golden State, 6p.m.*