OAKLAND, Calif. — The Big Three has faded. The Terrific Two is gone. And the Cleveland Cavaliers are still heading home with the NBA Finals knotted up at a game apiece.
All thanks to the Chosen One – and his scrappy teammate from Down Under.
LeBron James turned in a triple-double to remember, Matthew Dellavedova made the go-ahead free throws in overtime, and the Cavaliers overcame a fourth-quarter collapse to outlast the Golden State Warriors 95-93 on Sunday night.
James finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in 50 minutes, carrying Cleveland’s depleted roster to victory on the NBA’s toughest home floor. The Warriors had been 47-3 at ear-piercing Oracle Arena.
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“I tried to give it all to my teammates. And they do a great job of giving it back to me. Total team effort,” said James, who shot 11 of 34 from the floor and seemed to wear down as the game dragged on. “To be back in the same position we were in three days ago and to come back and even the series is big time.”
It was the second straight overtime game, and one the Cavs never should’ve let go so far.
Stephen Curry had a horrific shooting performance but converted the tying layup for the Warriors late in regulation. The MVP also put Golden State in front 93-92 on free throws with 29.5 seconds left in overtime.
Then, Draymond Green met James at the rim to block his left-handed layup, but the Cavs retained possession. After James Jones missed a 3-pointer, Dellavedova grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Dellavedova made both free throws to put Cleveland up with 10.1 seconds to play. Curry air-balled a jumper contested by Dellavedova, James got the rebound and hit one of two free throws with 4.4 seconds left.
“He was huge for us,” James said about Dellavedova. “We knew we could count on him because we’ve been in this situation before. He gave us everything that he had and more tonight.”
After James’ made the free throw, Curry, without a timeout, raced up court and tried to pass ahead to Klay Thompson. But Iman Shumpert batted the ball away to seal Cleveland’s win.
James waved his arms and pounded his chest near center court. He shook hands and hugged teammates emphatically as most of the fans – wearing those bright, golden yellow shirts – filed out of the arena.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.
“When we defend like we did tonight, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to beat any team in this world,” James said.
It was a pivotal point for the Cavs, who won their first finals game in franchise history. They were swept by the Spurs in their only other appearance in 2007, when James was just growing into the planet’s best player.
Cleveland was staring at a major deficit again. Teams with a 2-0 lead have gone on to win 28 of 31 series.
Now that’s one thing the Cavs won’t have to overcome.
James is still left trying to carry Cleveland to its first championship in 51 years after Kyrie Irving fractured his left kneecap in Game 1. Irving had surgery in Cleveland on Saturday to join sidelined starters Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao, both of whom had already been lost for the season with injuries.
He got a little help, this time.
Timofey Mozgov had 17 points and 11 rebounds but sat out a lot late in the fourth quarter and overtime when the Warriors went to a smaller lineup. J.R. Smith scored 11 points and Dellavedova had nine.
Cavs coach David Blatt went with the same lineup that won Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference finals when Irving was out with an injured knee. He started Dellavedova in Irving’s place, and the scrappy Australian corralled Curry as much as anybody has this season.
Curry scored 19 points and shot 5 of 23 from the floor, including 2 of 15 from 3-point range.
“Shots I normally make, I knew as soon as they left my hands they were off,” Curry said.
Klay Thompson tried to pick up the backcourt slack, scoring 34 points.
But The Warriors went 8 for 35 from long range and shot 39.8 percent overall. The Cavs, who shot 32.7 percent, outrebounded the Warriors 55 to 45 – but nearly wilted late.