At their best, the Golden State Warriors play a style of basketball that’s as fun to watch as that of any team in the NBA. Plenty of passing and fast breaks, and excellent perimeter shooting.
What the Cleveland Cavaliers do is the opposite. It might not be fun to watch, but it got the Cavaliers a 95-93 overtime win over the Warriors on Sunday at Oracle to even the best-of-seven NBA Finals at 1-1.
The Cavaliers are down two of their three All-Stars because of injuries during the postseason. That has left superstar LeBron James to carry the Cavs, and he’s doing that with teammates who are relying on guile, hustle and fight to stay in the series.
“It’s the Grit Squad that we have,” James said. “It’s not cute at all. If you’re looking for us to play cute, sexy basketball, that’s not us.”
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James posted the fifth triple double of his Finals career with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. It wasn’t his typically efficient shooting night.
James shot just 11 of 34, but that was good enough. So was Matthew Dellavedova, who started at point guard for Cleveland in place of All-Star Kyrie Irving. He had surgery for a fractured left kneecap Saturday in Cleveland and is out for the rest of the series.
So was Timofey Mozgov, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes, the kind of production that would be expected from All-Star power forward Kevin Love, who has been out since the first round of the playoffs because of shoulder surgery.
Now the Cavs, counted out after losing Irving after Game 1, head back to Cleveland for two games, knowing most observers still give them little chance of pulling off an upset in the series.
“I don’t need any extra motivation,” James said. “I think our guys love it. I think our guys love the fact that we’ve been counted out and coming into the series underdogs. (People have) been pretty much saying that, especially when Kyrie got hurt, the series was over. Our guys are using that as motivation.”
The unlikely hero was Dellavedova. He rebounded a miss by James Jones and was fouled with 10.1 seconds left in overtime. Dellavedova made both free throws to give the Cavs a 94-93 lead.
“That is a classic thing growing up,” Dellavedova said. “Down one, you need to make both free throws. So I felt like I’ve been in that situation a million times before.”
James put the Cavs up 83-72 with a three-pointer with 3:14 left in the fourth quarter. That’s when Golden State picked it up offensively and began intentionally fouling Cleveland big man Tristan Thompson to disrupt the Cavs’ offense.
It worked as Thompson missed 2 of 4 free throws and the Warriors closed regulation on a 15-4 run, capped by a layup by Stephen Curry with 7.2 seconds to play.
The Cavs had two good looks that would have won the game in regulation, but James missed a layup, and Thompson missed a putback as the buzzer sounded.
Unlike in their Game 1 overtime loss, the Cavs mustered more than two points in extra time. Cleveland scored the first five points of overtime and recovered from another Warriors surge thanks to Dellavedova’s late free throws and defense, forcing a miss by Curry.
Curry had the kind of game he’d probably like to forget. He made just 5 of 23 attempts from the field, including 2 of 15 from three-point range, and finished with 19 points.
“I don’t expect to shoot like this,” Curry said. “I’ve got to play better, find better shots and be more in rhythm throughout the course of the game for us to really assert ourselves as a team.”
Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 34 points.
Best-of-seven series will be televised on Ch. 10
- Game 1: Golden State 108, Cleveland 100 (OT)
- Game 2: Cleveland 95, Golden State 93 (OT)
- Tuesday: at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Thursday: at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Sunday: at Golden State, 5p.m.
- Tuesday, June 16:
- at Cleveland, 6p.m.*
- Friday, June 19:
- at Golden State, 6p.m.*