Warriors

Warriors

Programming note: Watch the re-air of Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavs tonight at 8 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on the MyTeams app.

Take an all-time great, put him back on a team in his home state, then match that team up with a budding dynasty led by a generational shooter on the NBA's biggest stage. 

Put those ingredients together and you get Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Warriors, the start of a rivalry that defined the 2010s. 

In Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, the matchup lived up to the foreshadowed hype, as LeBron James scored big, but the Warriors survived, taking Game 1 108-100 in overtime. Over 53 game minutes, each team showed grit, while injuries robbed the Cavs of its star power. 

Each team's journey to The Finals was different. Eleven months prior, James announced he'd be signing with Cleveland -- who drafted him in 2003 -- after four years with the Miami Heat. The addition of James, which paired him with young guard Kyrie Irving and newly acquired All-Star Kevin Love, put the Cavs among the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Warriors dominated the NBA, finishing with a league-high 67 wins. 

Cleveland followed suit, finishing the season on a 33-9 run after a midseason trade that brought JR Smith, Timofy Mozgov and Iman Shumpert onto the roster. Their dominance extended to the postseason, as they lost just two games before the Finals. 

 

But James' supporting cast was hindered by the time the Cavs got to Oracle Arena. Love dislocated his left shoulder in Cleveland's first playoff game against the Boston Celtics, putting more responsibility on James. Despite the conundrum, Cleveland's "give the ball to Bron" offense worked early in Game 1. Through the first 24 minutes, James shot over, around and through Golden State's defense, helping Cleveland take a 51-48 lead. By the end of the third quarter, James had accumulated 31 points, three rebounds and three assists.

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As James carried, Irving shined, chipping in 23 points, helping the Cavs nearly push Golden State to the brink. But Cleveland's chances, along with Irving's season, ended midway through overtime when Irving fractured his kneecap and crumpled to the floor. Over the final two-plus minutes, the Warriors took control, outscoring the Cavs 10-2 in period. 

The game marked the start of the Warriors' annual trip to the league's biggest stage. While James had won championships in Miami, Golden State was still in its infacy. Though the Warriors winning 67 games, the core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson had never played past the second round of the playoffs.

Their coach, Steve Kerr, was winding down his first season as coach after getting poached from the broadcast booth the summer prior. Nonetheless, the Warriors' young, balanced, attack prevailed. Curry scored 26 points, while Thompson added 21 points.

[RELATED: Kerr reflects on Warriors' dynasty]

But the game will forever be considered as the start of the league's pre-eminent rivalry. Twelve months after Game 1, the Cavs came back from a 3-1 lead to beat the Warriors to capture James' third title. A month after the upset, Golden State signed Kevin Durant, putting together one of the greatest collections of talent in NBA history, helping the Warriors win two more titles. By the end of the run, the two teams would play each other in four straight NBA Finals. 

In a league defined by its history, Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals was the start of a sports tale that'll live in infamy.