Kevin Durant drove through the lane untouched for dazzling dunks time and again, finishing with 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his first NBA Finals for Golden State and leading the Warriors past LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-91 on Thursday in Game 1.
Stephen Curry scored 28 points with six 3-pointers and 10 assists as this sure-to-be thrilling trilogy began at last, a long-expected, spectacular grand finale envisioned ever since that July day Durant left Oklahoma City to join the loaded Warriors.
James had 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists a day after dealing with bigotry far away from basketball. Someone painted a racial slur _ the N-word _ on the gate of his Los Angeles home, leaving James to address racism rather than his seventh straight Finals appearance. James said he would do his best to be ready for the series opener when his mind was elsewhere, concerned for his wife and children back in Ohio.
Durant punished Cleveland for leaving him free, taking the ball to the hoop for emphatic dunks as a man on a mission to deliver exactly what he came for: a championship. He had six slams in the first half alone for the Warriors, who at 13-0 are already the first team to go this far in a postseason unblemished.
“I think the start of the game, we were a little too anxious and we missed some layups, we gave up some open shots,” Durant said. “I think we just locked in from the second quarter on.”
Game 2 in the series is Sunday back at Oracle Arena with its deafening sellout crowd.
Kyrie Irving, who hit the deciding 3-pointer with Curry’s hand in his face last June as Cleveland rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win the city’s first major team title in 52 years, scored 24 points on 10-of-22 shooting. Kevin Love grabbed 21 rebounds and scored 15 points, while Tristan Thompson was held scoreless and to four boards.
Durant’s only other Finals ended at the hands of LeBron and Miami in 2012. He shot 14 for 26 in his fifth 30-point performance this postseason, receiving a rousing ovation when he sat down for good with 2:16 remaining.
Curry sported a fresh haircut for the occasion and the two-time reigning MVP initially wore a black sleeve on his shooting arm to protect a tender elbow that still had some swelling, but he quickly removed it and found his stroke. He shot 11 for 22, 6 of 11 on 3s.
This marks the first time in NBA history the same two teams played in three straight Finals and just the fourth time it has happened in the four major sports leagues.
The shooting was far from pretty, and Cleveland’s defense was a step behind most of the night, unable to stop the star-studded roster of All-Stars and key role players on the other side. Golden State finally warmed up after nine days off, while the Cavs had a six-day break since beating Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.
Warriors starting center Zaza Pachulia returned after missing the final two games at San Antonio with a bruised right heel and contributed eight points and six rebounds while plugging the paint.
Golden State’s four turnovers tied an NBA Finals low.
Cavaliers: James became the first player with 6,000 career points in the postseason. His 3-pointer in the third quarter moved him past Reggie Miller (320) for second place on the NBA postseason 3-point list, which is led by Ray Allen with 385. … Cleveland committed 12 of its 20 turnovers in the first half.
Warriors: Steve Kerr had hoped to feel well enough to return to the bench but stayed behind the scenes in the locker room as he continues to deal with complications from back surgery nearly two years ago. “My heart goes out to him,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. … Curry became the fifth player in NBA history with 300 career playoff 3s after coming in with 295. … Klay Thompson, playing more stellar defense while missing all five of his 3-point tries and scoring just six points, notched his 77th career postseason game to tie Jeff Mullins for most in franchise history.