The Cleveland Cavaliers let an 11-point lead slip in the fourth quarter but dug deep in overtime to beat Golden State 95-93 on Sunday and square the NBA Finals series at 1-1.
Matthew Dellavedova made a pair of free throws to put Cleveland ahead with 10 seconds to go in overtime and the injury-hit Cavs held on for the Game Two triumph.
James had scored 44 points in his team’s series opening loss and again carried the offensive burden with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists for the Cavaliers, who lost All Star Kyrie Irving to a serious knee injury in Game One.
Irving had surgery on Saturday to repair his fractured left kneecap, a procedure described as successful by the team.
James said it have been a difficult time for the team.
“Very emotional win right here with everything we’ve been through,” he told reporters. “For us to tough it out like this (and) be able to come back and even the series is big time.”
Cleveland’s relentless defense held Golden State to 39 percent shooting and made it a forgettable night for regular season MVP Stephen Curry. Curry had just 19 points on 5-for-23 shooting but he capped the home team’s comeback with a game-tying layup with eight seconds left in regulation that forced overtime.
Curry then put Golden State ahead 93-92 with a pair of free throws with half a minute left in the extra session but then fluffed a potential game-tying shot and committed a turnover on the Warriors last two possessions.
“Shots I normally make, I knew as soon as they left my hand that they were off,” Curry said. “That doesn’t usually happen. One game isn’t going to alter my confidence.”
Klay Thompson led Golden State’s offense with 34 points.
Cleveland had key additional key performances from Timofey Mozgov (17 points, 11 rebounds) J.R. Smith (13 points) and Dellavedova, who led the defensive stand against Curry. “He's a courageous kid that plays right,” said Cavaliers coach David Blatt of Dellavedova. “He played big tonight, and we needed him to.” Game Three is on Tuesday in Cleveland. The opening two games have both gone to overtime, a first for the NBA Finals.