The Cleveland Cavaliers, following a loss via a sweep in their only other appearance, won their first game in franchise history in the NBA Finals on Sunday evening. With the win, the Cavs level the championship series at one game a piece with all to play for as the series shifts to Cleveland, Ohio.
The game might be remembered as one that saw the two most talented players in the 2015 NBA Finals fail on a lot of shots.
Lebron James was just 11 for 35 on the night, meaning a lot of possessions that went through him offensively ended up as Golden State rebounds. But, fortunately for Warrior fans, Stephen Curry also shot poorly in game two as he hit just 5 of 23 from the field. James and Curry had 39 points and 19 points respectively with a major difference between the two being the former’s ability to get to the free throw line as James hit 14 of 18 from the charity stripe.
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 to even the NBA Finals at a game apiece.
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.
”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.”
The game might also be remembered for its similarities to game one. The Cavaliers held a big lead in game two, just as they did in the opener, only to see it winnow away. In both games one and games two regulation concluded with a missed shot by James, one that could have given his side victory.
However unlike game one, the Cavaliers actually showed up to play in the overtime session on Sunday. The drama in game two peaked when Matthew Dellavedova, after getting fouled with about 10 seconds to play, approached the line for two free throw shots. The 24-year old Aussie, who played sparingly in game one, was arguably only in the game in the clutch due to the injury to Kyrie Irving earlier in the series.
Dellavedova made both of his free throws to give Cleveland the lead, one that they would hang onto following a Curry airball in the dying seconds (final score: 95-93).
The Cavaliers had drifted in the betting market following both the game one loss and the loss of Irving for the remainder of the season. However, despite the attrition of star players that they’ve seen during the 2015 playoffs, the Cavaliers showed that they would not just fold on their season. The sportsbooks do not know what to make of this Cavalier team as some, like Unibet, price the Cavs as favorites while others, like BetVictor and Paddy Power, make Golden State the favorites still.
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.”
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 the Cavs’ win.
That truly is a baffling situation as usually sports betting odds, despite variance, have the favorites and underdogs aligned across the board.
Game three goes on Tuesday night at 9pm ET from Ohio.