By Matthew T.F. Harrington
Entering game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers had little cause for optimism. Already down one all-world player with Kevin Love sidelined, LeBron James and co. were dealt a devastating blow when all-star guard Kyrie Irving broke his knee in the game 1 overtime loss. Following game 2, the Cavaliers have found new life and a fresh start.
The Cavs bested the Golden State Warriors 95-93 in overtime at Oracle Arena Sunday, evening the NBA Finals at a win apiece. Despite missing the potential game-winner in regulation, LeBron James still dominated the contest. The Cavs superstar notched his 13th career playoff triple-double, scoring 39 points while pulling down 16 rebounds with 11 assists.
James might have had a case of déjà vu. With the score tied at 87 and 8 seconds left, the former Finals MVP had a chance at the game-winner. Just like in the waning moment of game 1, James came up empty, missing a lay-up at the rim to force OT.
In the extra session, the Cavs struck first, with Iman Shumpert hitting a trey. James then went to the line, sinking both free throw to put Cleveland up by 5 with 3:17 left. The Warriors scored the next six points, four on consecutive Draymond Green baskets and a pair of Stephen Curry free throw to take the 93-92 lead with 29 second left.
Following a timeout, James’ jumper was blocked by Green with Andre Iguodala picking up the rebound. Igoudala couldn’t maintain control of the ball though, turning the ball over while resetting the Cleveland shot clock with 18 seconds left. From there, Cleveland’s unlikely hero stepped up.
After another James jumper missed with 11 seconds left, St. Mary’s product Matthew Dellavedova reeled in the offensive rebound. He was then fouled by Harrison Barnes, hitting both free throws with 10 seconds left to put Cleveland up by one.
At the other end, Curry missed a jump shot that would have put the Warriors up. Barnes was then forced to foul James, who sunk one of two from the charity stripe to put Cleveland up 95-93 with four seconds left. The Warriors inbounded the ball quickly, but Curry turned the ball over to Shumpert to wrap up the loss for the home team.
Curry struggled throughout the night to find his scoring touch after being dogged by Irving’s replacement, the gritty Dellavedova. The current MVP scored only 19 points, going 5 for 23 from the field. Curry hit only 2 of 15 three-pointers on a night where the whole team went cold from downtown. Out of 35 attempts, only 8 treys went in for the Dubs.
Klay Thompson accounted for half the production from beyond the arc, hitting 4 of 12. The second half of the Splash Brothers had a breakout contest, scoring 34 points on 14-28 shooting over nearly 46 minutes of play. Harrison Barnes (11) and Draymong Green (10) were the only other Warriors to reach double-digit scoring. For the Cavs, Timofey Mozgov (17) and J.R. Smith (13) joined James in double-figure.
Despite being the shorthanded team, the Cavaliers looked to have the game well in hand. They led the NBA’s regular season wins leaders by 11 points with five minutes left. Led by Curry’s 7 points, the Warriors outpaced the Cavs down the stretch 19-8.
Golden State opened up the game on an 11-6 scoring run and built a quarter-high 8-point lead at 20-12 with 3:12 left in the 1st quarter, but the Cavs closed out the half on an 8-0 run to pull even. Again the Warriors built a 6-point lead in the 2nd, leading 31-25 halfway through the frame but Cleveland went on a 15-2 run to take a 40-33 edge. The Warriors clawed back, often finding themselves only two points back or even, but never led again until the 93-92 advantage in overtime.
The series now shifts to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s game 3. After already setting history as the first Finals to have games 1 and 2 go to overtime, who knows what these two teams will have in store at Quicken Loans Arena in two days.
By Matthew T.F. Harrington