Oh, my. LeBron James isn’t flawless.
He looked it for four quarters, but then Thursday’s game dripped into overtime and James ran out of whatever it is that powers him.
The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 108-100, dominating the extra five minutes in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
James looked mostly unstoppable until disappearing in overtime, scoring two points, missing three of four shots and committing two turnovers.
“We couldn’t get a good look, couldn’t get nothing to drop, including myself,” said James, who finished with 44 points, his most ever in the Finals, on 18-for-38 shooting. He also had eight rebounds and six assists.
“We really only had zero [overtime] points,” James said. “I got a layup at the end, but that didn’t mean much.”
As it was, the Cavaliers tied the Finals record for fewest overtime points since the shot-clock era (1954-55).
Cleveland’s cause could be damaged because All-Star guard Kyrie Irving reinjured his problematic left leg in overtime. He missed two games in the Eastern Conference finals because of knee tendinitis and limped off the court Thursday shortly after crumpling on a drive toward the basket.
An MRI exam was scheduled Friday for Irving, who needed crutches after the game. He had 23 points and six assists after more than a week of rest.
“It’s very tough to see,” James said. “I see how hard he worked these last eight days just to get himself to play at this level [in Game 1]. It’s a tough blow for our team.”
The stage was large, without a doubt, but the Warriors changed little from their season-long formula — heavy backcourt reliance and total authority at home.
Most valuable player Stephen Curry had 26 points and Klay Thompson added 21 as the Warriors improved to 47-3 at Oracle Arena.
Good news for Warriors fans, who haven’t experienced a championship since 1975 — the team that wins Game 1 has captured the title 71% of the time.
Even better news for them: Game 2 is also at home, on Sunday.
The Warriors started slowly, falling behind by 14, perhaps because of inexperience. They were the first team since Utah in 1997 to reach the Finals without any players with championship-round experience.
They were forgiven, seeing how the franchise hadn’t been this far since winning it all in 1975. Curry and Thompson were steadying hands, along with veteran Andre Iguodala (15 points).
Curry staked the Warriors an early overtime lead by making four free throws and Harrison Barnes’ three-pointer from the left corner made it 105-98 with 2:02 remaining. The Cavaliers couldn’t recover.
Before the game, well before James had 31 points through three quarters, a reporter advised Golden State Coach Steve Kerr to throw the “kitchen sink” at James.
“It sounds like a good plan,” Kerr said, laughing. “Think you might swing by my office before the game?”
James often played villain to the hostile crowd, sticking out his chest after sinking a 12-foot fadeaway over Iguodala for an 86-82 lead with 6:29 left in the fourth quarter.
James couldn’t shake the Warriors, though.
The game headed to overtime at 98-98 after Irving blocked Curry’s layup with 24 seconds left, then James’ turn-around 21-footer missed, as did Iman Shumpert’s surprisingly close desperation flick off the rebound from three-point range.
Timofey Mozgov had 16 points for Cleveland, but only two other Cavaliers scored in double figures. Reserve guard J.R. Smith missed 10 of 13 shots and had only nine points.
“Over the course of the game, I felt like we stuck to the game plan,” Curry said. “LeBron’s going to dominate the ball and make plays. Don’t give him any easy buckets and [do] not let anybody else get a rhythm.”