Even LeBron James’ highest-scoring game in his NBA Finals career wasn’t enough for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the NBA’s top team.
James scored 44 points but missed a potential winner at the end of regulation and the Cavaliers lost Game 1 to the Golden State Warriors 108-100 on Thursday night.
Cleveland might have lost more than that as star point guard Kyrie Irving limped to the locker room in overtime with a grimace on his face and did not return. Irving, who has been slowed by knee and foot injuries in the postseason, was sharp with 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and a key block against Stephen Curry at the end of regulation.
That almost set up the win for Cleveland but James missed a tough fall-away jumper over Andre Iguodala in the closing seconds of regulation. Iman Shumpert grabbed the rebound and threw up a desperation shot at the buzzer that hit the rim and bounced away to force overtime.
The Cavaliers missed their first eight shots of overtime and James had two turnovers as Golden State scored the first 10 points of the extra session. Cleveland didn’t score until James’ layup with 8.9 seconds remaining, shortly before the confetti started falling.
James tied Shaquille O’Neal for the third-most points ever in an opening game of the finals and had the biggest opening game total since Allen Iverson had 48 and O’Neal scored 44 in the 2001 opener.
James had his biggest-scoring game ever in the finals, topping the 37 he had against San Antonio two years ago. But in the end, James got too little help.
Irving and Timofey Mozgov (16 points) were the only other players in double figures and Cleveland got few other contributions outside of Tristan Thompson’s 15 rebounds.
That will have to change if Cleveland is going to be able to tie the series Sunday night in Game 2.