What happened: Stephen Curry had 26 points to lead the Warriors to the series-opening win. The league's MVP was contained for much of the second half, but did just enough late as Golden State rallied from an early 14-point deficit to win.
After regulation ended in a 98-98 tie, Curry picked the perfect time to dip into his bag of tricks: on consecutive possessions, his pump-fake drew fouls on Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving that gave him four free throws and a 102-98 lead.
Warriors forward Harrison Barnes hit a corner three-pointer on the next possession at the 2:02 mark, and the Warriors were on their way.
The team that wins Game 1 of the Finals has gone on to win the series 22 of 31 times (71%) since 1984, meaning the Warriors find themselves in the driver's seat. This was as good as Finals basketball gets, with this marking the first time since 1959 that a Game 1 of the Finals was tied entering fourth quarter (according to ESPN Stats).
The Cavs came close to pulling it off in regulation, when Kyrie Irving's beautiful block from behind a driving Curry layup with 24 seconds left set the stage for the finish. But James could do no better than a falling, stepback three-point attempt from the left side with Andre Iguodala contesting that misfired, and an Iman Shumpert desperation putback from the right baseline nearly found the bottom of the net en route to overtime.
Curry vs LeBron: Curry carried the Warriors early and had 14 points at halftime, but he went approximately 22 minutes without scoring in the second half before breaking through in the final minute. He dribbled through two defenders and pulled up for a jumper atop the key that put in the Warriors up 98-96. His better-late-than-never surge would continue from there.
James, meanwhile, was simply masterful as he finished with 44 points. There were a few fleeting moments when the Warriors found a way to slow his attack, but he mostly dominated against a rotating cast of defenders that were overmatched at every turn. Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, one after the other trying and failing to keep him contained. James seemed unfazed by the unorthodox approach, operating so effectively in the post and perfecting that one-footed, stepback midrange jumper that is so impossible to guard.
The others: Iguodala came to play. His 15 points off the bench coupled with his gritty effort on James defensively were the latest proof that the Warriors' incredible depth sets them apart. Warriors guard Klay Thompson finished strong, too (21 points after just five in the first half). The Cavs' Kyrie Irving had a strong showing (23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks), but appeared to tweak his ailing left knee late in overtime.
Play of the game: When Curry buried a three-pointer from the left corner that tied the game at 36-36 midway through the second quarter, it was as if someone opened a side door to Oracle Arena and let all the Warriors' tension out.
From missing 15 of their first 19 shots to putting together a 21-7 run that put them back in business, the early foibles had been overcome and the raucous scene – Curry and others waving their arms as the building grew louder after the shot – was a sign of things to come. It was vintage Curry, too, as he'd flipped the ball to Draymond Green on the perimeter only to sneak into the corner and get it back in time to hoist the long-range look over Tristan Thompson.