Oakland, CA (SportsNetwork.com) – LeBron James emphatically slammed the ball down on the floor and let out a euphoric roar.
Written off by many, the Cavaliers are heading back to Cleveland with the NBA Finals tied at a game apiece.
“I can’t wait to see our fans,” James said.
The two-day rest period can’t end soon enough.
James recorded his fifth career NBA Finals triple-double, Matthew Dellavedova sunk a pair of go-ahead free throws with 10.1 seconds remaining in overtime and the Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers gutted out a 95-93 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 on Sunday night.
James finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists following his NBA Finals career-high 44-point performance in Game 1.
“He really willed his guys to win that game,” Cavaliers head coach David Blatt said. “That’s what a champion does.”
After hitting his foul shots the scrappy Dellavedova, filling in for the injured Irving, then played stupendous defense on Stephen Curry at the other end as he had all night, contesting a tough step-back jumper from the left baseline.
Curry, who scored 19 points, didn’t make a shot (0-for-8) and turned the ball over four times when guarded by Dellavedova.
“He kept a body on Steph. He made Steph work. He was spectacular,” James said of Dellavedova’s defense.
James split a pair of foul shots with 4.4 seconds on the clock to give the Cavaliers a 95-93 lead and Golden State, which didn’t have a timeout left, never got off a final shot as Iman Shumpert stole Curry’s pass up the floor.
“We were locked in on every play. That’s what it took,” Blatt said.
Game 3 is Tuesday.
The Cavaliers needed overtime after blowing an 11-point lead in the final three-plus minutes of regulation. James, just like in Game 1, had a chance to win it in the waning seconds after Curry knotted the contest with an uncontested layup down the lane with 7.2 ticks on the clock.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP, however, wasn’t able to beat the stingy Andre Iguodala once again in the closing moments of the fourth. Instead of settling for a tough contested jumper, a la Game 1, James rumbled down the lane, but was unable to finish with the left hand over the trio of Iguodala, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
“They were going to make a run at some point,” Blatt said of the Warriors’ comeback. “We had to do everything to hold on.”
Cleveland’s All-Star guard Irving fractured his left knee cap in Thursday’s 108-100 overtime loss in Game 1. Irving, who missed two games in the Eastern Conference Finals due to left knee issues, underwent surgery Saturday morning and is done for the remainder of the postseason. The Cavs are already without All-Star forward Kevin Love due to a separated shoulder.
“All we can do is play hard,” James said of being undermanned.
Timofey Mozgov posted 17 points and 11 rebounds, J.R. Smith netted 13 points and Tristan Thompson pulled down 14 boards for Cleveland.
Although the MVP Curry was just 5-of-23 from the field, including a 2-of-15 mark from beyond the arc, his fellow Splash Brother did everything he could to keep the Warriors in it. Klay Thompson scored 34 points on 14-of-28 shooting.
Normally sharp-shooting Golden State connected on just 8-of-25 (22.9 percent) from beyond the arc.
“This is the Finals, it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard, we had a tough night,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.
James knocked down a right wing 3 to stake the Cavs to an 83-72 advantage with 3:14 to go in the fourth before Golden State closed the stanza on a 15-4 run.
Cleveland, which was nearly shut out by the Warriors in overtime of Game 1, scored the first five points of the extra session in this one, with Shumpert nailing a triple and two James free throws making it 92-87.
A pair of putback layups from Green preceded two bonus shots from Curry with 29.5 seconds to play, vaulting the Warriors in front for the first time since they were up 33-32 midway through the second.
Dellavedova was fouled on a follow-up layup attempt after James Jones missed a right corner trey.
Earlier, Cleveland closed the opening frame with the last eight points as Smith’s nifty left-handed layup on a take from the right elbow knotted the contest at 20-20.
Jones knocked down a pair of triples and scored eight points during a Cavaliers’ 15-2 surge, which lifted them to a 40-33 lead late in the second quarter. Cleveland was up 47-45 at the break.
Defense reigned supreme in the third and the Cavs outscored Golden State 15-14 in the period despite shooting just 19 percent (4-of-21). Marreese Speights’ open fastbreak dunk attempt in the waning seconds of the frame rattled in and out and Cleveland entered into the fourth with a 62-59 edge.
It’s the first time in NBA Finals history that the first two games were decided in overtime … James’ five triple-doubles are second most in the NBA Finals behind Magic Johnson’s eight … The Warriors were held under 60 points through three quarters for the first time all season … Cleveland shot 32.2 percent (29-of-90) from the field … The Cavs netted 17 points off 19 Golden State turnovers.