2018 NBA Finals Game 1: Warriors overcome James' career playoff high 51, defeat Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime

One of the best games in NBA Finals history was marred by a controversial call and a blunder by the Cavaliers at the end of regulation.

2018 NBA Finals Game 1: Warriors overcome James' career playoff high 51, defeat Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime
Stephen Curry (l.), Kevin Durant (c.) and Shaun Livingston (r.) celebrate after Golden State wins Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Cleveland Cavaliers
114 124
Golden State Warriors

The 2018 NBA Finals kicked off with a game for the ages as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime to grab an early 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Playing in the championship round for the fourth straight year, the Warriors were led by Stephen Curry's 29 points. Kevin Durant added 26 while Klay Thompson had 24 after leaving the game in the second quarter with a leg injury.

Curry led Golden State in Game 1 with 29 points/Photo: NBA.com
Curry led Golden State in Game 1 with 29 points/Photo: NBA.com

LeBron James scored the fifth most points in an NBA Finals game, pouring in a playoff career-high 51 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Kevin Love came out of the league's concussion protocol to score 21 points and pull down 13 rebounds.

James turns in another virtuoso playoff performance

Playing in his ninth Finals and eighth in a row, the Cavaliers legend turned in his finest performance yet: he shot 19-of-32 from the field, including three of seven from long distance as well as 10-for-11 from the free throw line.

James turned in one of the finest performances in Finals history in Game 1/Photo: 11alive.com
James turned in one of the finest performances in Finals history in Game 1/Photo: 11alive.com

He carried the Cavaliers on both sides of the court, recording the first 50-point game in the finals since Michael Jordan in 1993. He also tied the Bulls icon with his 109th career 30-point playoff outing as well as notching his eighth 40-point game during this playoff run to tie Hall of Famer Jerry West in 1965 for most in a single postseason.

Unfortunately, he wasn't given much support, a recurring theme this postseason, outside of Love. The rest of the team shot 16 of 47 from the floor (34 percent). The Cavaliers did outrebound the Warriors 53-38, including 19-4 on the offensive glass.

Dramatic end of game sequence costs Cavaliers

After Golden State led by six heading into the fourth quarter, James scored or assisted on four of the first five Cleveland buckets and his driving layup with 7:31 left gave the Eastern Conference champions a 92-91 lead. 

After the Warriors went back up by six, James recorded back-to-back field goals, cutting the lead to 100-98. Curry answered to put the Warriors ahead by four, but a Love triple and another James driving layup saw Cleveland go-ahead 103-102.

James drove past Curry for a three-point play with 50 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But James was given a foul following a review with 36.4 seconds left and Kevin Durant converted a pair of free throws to tie it at 104. The call had initially been a charge on the 2017 Finals MVP.

James is shocked as a foul call is reversed from a charge on Kevin Durant to a block on him/Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
James is shocked as a foul call is reversed from a charge on Kevin Durant to a block on him.
Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

“It’s never been done, ever in the history of the game,” said Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue.“It was great, it was epic and [James] did enough to carry this team to a victory ... To do what he did tonight and to come up robbed, it’s just not right.”

Following that sequence, Curry drove to the hoop, scored the basket and was fouled by Love. After making the free throw to complete the three-point play and give Golden State a 107-106 lead, George Hill was fouled by Thompson.

He made the first of two free throws with 4.7 seconds left after being but when J.R Smith secured the rebound after Hill missed the second, he dribbled back toward half court instead of shooting, apparently thinking the Cavs had a lead.

James tries to tell Smith to pass the ball so the Cavaliers can get off a final shot in regulation/Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
James tries to tell Smith to pass the ball so the Cavaliers can get off a final shot in regulation.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said afterwards that "He thought it was over. He thought we were up one." Yet Smith insisted he knew the score. Jeff Green figured Smith was simply looking for James, saying, "I would have looked for LeBron, too."

Smith further explained that "I just thought we were going to call a timeout. Because I got the rebound, I'm pretty sure I couldn't shoot it over KD. If I thought we were ahead, I would have just held on to the ball so they could foul me. Clearly, that wasn't the case."

Warriors dominate overtime to close out Game 1

It was Golden State who raced out quickly in the extra session, scoring the first nine points and outscoring Cleveland 17-7 in overtime. The Warriors assisted on all five buckets in the extra period with Thompson and Shaun Livingston scoring 11 of the 17 points.

Tempers flared at the end of Game 1 that resulted in Tristan Thompson's ejection/Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Tempers flared at the end of Game 1 that resulted in Tristan Thompson's ejection.
Photo: Lachian Cunningham/Getty Images

As time wound down, James jawed with both Curry and Klay Thompson, then Tristan Thompson and Draymond Green tangled moments later and made contact. After replay review, Tristan Thompson received a flagrant 2 foul and ejection with 2.6 seconds left.

Green had an excellent all-around game, finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and five steals.

Game 2 is Sunday night at Oracle Arena and is scheduled for a 8 p.m. ET tipoff.