OAKLAND, June 5- Steph Curry scored 26 points and Klay Thompson added 21 to spark the Golden State Warriors over Cleveland 108-100 in over-time in Thursday’s NBA Finals opener.
The Warriors improved to 47-3 at home this season in regular-season and playoff games, outscoring Cleveland 10-2 in the extra five-minute period, the Cavaliers making three turnovers and missing nine shots in over-time.
As tough as the loss was for Cleveland, even worse could be the blow to the left knee suffered by Kyrie Irving in over-time. The star guard limped off to the locker room, a grimace of pain on his face, after bumping Thompson’s leg.
“I hate to see that. I hope he’s OK,” Warriors coach steve Kerr said. “You want to see everybody healthy and everybody play.”
LeBron James scored 44 points, his best-ever showing in an NBA Finals game, in a losing cause. The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player is playing in his fifth NBA Finals in a row, the last four with Miami before returning to his hometown club last July.
“We had five guys guarding him all night,” Curry said. “We just had to stick with the game plan and trust in our guys.”
The best-of-seven championship series will continue Sunday in Oakland before the clubs travel to Cleveland for games three and four.
Golden State seeks its first title in 40 years in their first NBA Finals appearance since 1975 while the Cavaliers are trying to bring the city of Cleveland its first champion in any major team sport since the NFL’s 1964 Browns and end the longest such drought for any US city.
The first NBA Finals opener in 14 years to require over-time was deadlocked at 98-98 after regulation.
– Warriors dominate over-time –
Curry, this season’s Most Valuable Player and the NBA’s most accurate free throw shooter this season, went 4-for-4 from the line to open the extra frame.
Harrison Barnes followed with a 3-pointer and the rout was on for a Golden State squad that trailed most of the night.
Andre Iguodala came off the bench to score 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting for the Warriors, who also had 12 from Draymond Green and 11 from Barnes.
Irving added 23 points for Cleveland while Russian center Timofey Mozgov added 16 points and Tristan Thompson pulled down 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Golden State seized an 80-77 lead but James sparked a rally, sinking a hook shot and an outside jumper then adding a turnaround fadeaway for an 86-82 Cleveland advantage.
But Iguodala answered with a 3-pointer that began a 12-2 Warriors’ run, Golden State retaking the lead at 94-93 on Curry’s jumper from the top of the key with 3:34 to play and adding to it on two Klay Thompson free throws.
James responded with a 3-pointer to pull the Cavaliers level at 96-96 with 2:38 remaining in regulation.
Curry sank a jump shot to put Golden State back on top in the final minute but Mozgov was fouled by Golden State’s Aussie center Andrew Bogut and hit two tense free throws to pull the Cavaliers equal again at 98-98.
Curry drove to the hoop on the next Warriors possession but Irving was able to deflect the shot from behind and deny the basket. Iman Shumpert missed a shot at the buzzer and the teams regrouped for over-time.
Iguodala’s steal and slam dunk to close the third quarter had lifted Golden State level at 73-73 entering the final quarter. Cleveland never trailed in the third, James scoring 12 points to keep the Warriors at bay.
James had 19 points in the first half while Curry had 14 first-half points.
A 17-2 first-quarter run gave Cleveland a 26-13 lead, James and Irving scoring five points each with four from Mozgov. But the Warriors answered with a 26-7 spurt of their own to take a 41-36 edge, Curry contributing nine points in the run.
The Cavaliers responded by closing the first half with a 15-7 run, Shumpert making two 3-pointers in the span and J.R. Smith sinking another 0.7 of a second remaining to give Cleveland a 51-48 half-time lead.