Oakland — There are some things you simply cannot do in the NBA Finals, as the young Warriors will learn eventually.
You don't give a superstar a second chance.
And you never, ever give him a third one.
After LeBron James missed the long-range shot that would have beat them in Game 1, the Warriors dared James to beat them again at Oracle Arena on Sunday. After James was unable to close the deal yet again late in the fourth quarter — this time from close range — he willed the Cleveland Cavaliers to a gutty 95-93 victory in overtime.
“It's the gritty squad that we have,” James said. “It's not cute at all. It you're looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, then that's not us. That's not us right now. Everything is tough.”
The best-of-seven series will shift to Cleveland in 1-1 deadlock on Tuesday night.
James finished with a triple-double — 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists — and clearly got the best of Stephen Curry in the matchup of current and former Most Valuable Players.
Curry left his game in the tunnel, from where he launches a shot before every game. He swished the 40-footer on his first try, only to miss 18 of 23 attempts when it counted. He finished with 19 points.
Klay Thompson had a team-high 34 points, but Harrison Barnes (11) and Draymond Green (10) were the only others to score in double figures.
“I didn't feel right, but there is no time to really about that,” Curry said of his shot. “You've got to keep shooting and try to figure it out.”
“It happens,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It happens to everyone whether you're an MVP or a role player. Sometimes the shots don't go in. Sometimes things don't go your way.”
The frenzied crowd was treated to another wild, crazy game of playoff basketball that featured 128 missed shots, 35 turnovers and almost as many complains about the referees. The Cavaliers shot only 33 percent in the field, while the Warriors connected finished at 40 percent.
After Curry tied the game at 87-all on a layup with 7.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter, James had a chance to even the series on one shot. He was able to get to the basket but missed a left-handed layup with Green in hot pursuit.
When the game was over more than three hours after it began, the smallest man on the court had the ball and the victory in his hands. St. Mary's alum Matthew Dellavedova stole a pass intended for Thompson that sealed the outcome.
Dellavedova converted 3 of 10 field goal tries and committed a half-dozen turnovers. But he made it difficult for Curry at the offensive end and grabbed the key offensive rebound of the game.
Ten seconds remained in overtime when Dellavedova beat Barnes to a loose ball and was fouled in the process. He sank two free throws to give his team a 94-93 lead.
“I mean, that is a classic thing you practice as a kid growing up — down one, you need to make both free throws,” Dellavedova said. “So I felt like I've been in that situation a million times before.
The Warriors figured to have an easier time with Cavaliers star Krie Irving (fractured left kneecap) out of action, but it never materialized. They never led by more than eight points and were tied or trailed at the end of each quarter.
As Cavaliers coach David Blatt said, “I don't think we'll see any easy games in this series.”
Now the Warriors will have to win at least one road game to achieve their goal. If there's any consolation to their fans, it's that there will be at least one more game at Oracle Arena this season.
“Steph will bounce back,” Kerr promised. “He's a great player. We'll help him. We'll try to get him to a better groove. He'll be fine.”