OAKLAND, Calif. - Stephen Curry put up one finger and pumped his right fist a few times before disappearing into one of the tunnels inside Oracle Arena, probably feeling as if he had been in a 12-round bout.
At least he survived. Looks as if the same can't be said for Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.
In a game the Cavaliers felt they should have won in regulation, they watched their floor general limp off the court in the final minutes of their 108-100 overtime loss to the Warriors Thursday night in the opener of the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
Afterward, Cleveland's futility in overtime -- the Cavs misfired on their first 10 shots and were outscored 10-2 in OT -- was the furthest thing from its mind.
There was legitimate concern for Irving, who battled through a strained right foot and tendinitis in his left knee to post 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists before limping off the court in the waning minutes of overtime after aggravating his left leg injury on a non-contact play. The team said he will undergo an MRI Friday morning and that his status for Sunday's Game 2 here will be updated once they have a better idea of what's going on.
"Obviously, you can see the tone in my voice; I'm a little worried," Irving told reporters before leaving the arena on crutches. " . . . It's a little disappointing, a little frustrating, because coming in, I felt amazing."
LeBron James did just about everything he could to lift the Cavaliers to greater heights in this one, scoring 44 points -- a high-water mark for him in the NBA Finals -- and adding eight rebounds and six assists. He also had a golden opportunity to win it in regulation after Curry (26 points) had his layup blocked from behind by Irving with 24.9 seconds left. But he couldn't shake Andre Iguodala and his tough 18-foot jumper caromed off the rim with 3.8 seconds left.
After grabbing the rebound, the Cavaliers' Iman Shumpert, playing in his first NBA Finals alongside another former Knick in J.R. Smith, fired off a desperation heave almost in one motion, and it rattled out to a collection of gasps from the sellout crowd. That sent the game to overtime.
"My mindset was we're either going to go out of here with a win or going into overtime," James said. "I'm going to get the last shot. Actually, Shumpert was able to get another look at it, but I got to where I wanted to get, step back, made them before. We had our chances."
Shumpert lamented his missed potential game-winner.
"I didn't have any time to set my feet and I missed the shot," he said. " . . . Without a doubt, I thought it was good. But I missed the shot."
One of the big questions during the last eight days centered around the health of Irving and just how effective he'd be, given that he'd had been battling an assortment of injuries. It didn't take long at all to see he was feeling good enough to give the Warriors fits early. Irving had nine points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals in the first half, engineering Cleveland's offense beautifully and displaying his trademark quickness and ballhandling that make him such a tough cover.
But that all was long forgotten as he limped badly around the locker room afterward. His father even slammed the trainer's door upon exiting in obvious frustration for his son.
"Well, I mean, it's the next man up," James said. "If Kyrie can't go, Delly's [Matthew Dellavedova's] number is going to be called and everyone else has to pick each other up. They outscored us 35-9 on bench points. But, you know, we still had a chance to win. We had a few miscues defensively. Had a couple of turnovers offensively, but we were right there. Like I said, they just made a couple more plays than we made."