Warriors survive James, Cavaliers in OT thriller 

click to enlarge Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) walk on the floor during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 4, 2015. - AP PHOTO/BEN MARGOT
  • AP Photo/Ben Margot
  • Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) walk on the floor during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 4, 2015.

OAKLAND — The Warriors and their fans waited 40 years for the NBA Finals, and when they finally arrived at Oracle Arena on Thursday night, they got what they wanted and then some.

A slice of basketball history and one of the most memorable victories in franchise history.

The Warriors overcame some early jitters and some tense moments late in the game to pull out a 108-100 overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, but not before LeBron James went off for 44 points and darn near stole the series opener.

The best-of-seven series will resume at Oracle Arena on Sunday afternoon.

"We were lucky to get into overtime," coach Steve Kerr said.

Once there, the Warriors weren't lucky to put away the visitors.

Stephen Curry drained four consecutive free throws, Harrison Barnes nailed a 3-pointer and the Warriors coasted to the finish line. In the extra session, the Cavaliers were held to two points on 1 of 10 in the field. They also were guilty of three turnovers.

"We just forced them into tough shots the whole overtime," said Curry, who had team-highs of 26 points and eight assists. "It was just a classic five minutes that we needed to get that win."

Those in the know believed that James and the underdog Cavaliers had a puncher's chance in the series. In that case, the Warriors might have survived their best uppercut.

As it turned out, the Cavaliers' best shot came in the final seconds of regulation play. And it also may have been their worst one.

The score was tied at 98-all when Curry beat Kyrie Irving (23 points) on a back-door cut, only to have Irving block his layup attempt from behind. Curry pleaded for a touch foul on the play, but none was called.

Rather than drive to the basketball after a time-out, James attempted a deep 2-pointer that missed badly.

"I got to what I wanted to do — a step-back [jump shot]," said James, who also had six assists. "I've made them before to give us the lead. We had our chances."

Teammate Iman Shumpert caught the long rebound in flight and hoisted a prayer from the corner that hit the front of the rim. Most of the raucous crowd were on their feet for the final five minutes of the period, and only then could they exhale again.

Said Kerr, "I thought Iman's follow was going in," Kerr said. "It looked good the whole way. It was right one line. It was maybe a few inches short."

The Warriors' postseason inexperience and comparative lack of size were storylines before the series, and they were factors at the outset. The home team trailed 29-19 at the close of one period, one in which it bricked 15 of 21 field goal tries and were outrebounded by a 17-9 margin.

Three minutes into the second period, the Warriors trailed by eight points when they received a boost from an unlikely source. Marreese Speights checked in the game for the first time in three weeks, and he promptly knocked down three shots to get his team back in the game.

Before the loss was in the books, the Cavaliers received even worse news. While the fans celebrated around him in the final seconds, Irving quietly hobbled to the dressing room on a bum left knee.

"You want everybody playing," Kerr said. "This is the dream of every player, to come to the NBA Finals and perform and compete. So I hope he's OK."

The Cavaliers sure as heck hope so, too.

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