A shirtless Andrew Bogut sat in the corner of the Golden State Warriors’ locker room with a towel wrapped around his waist and an ice pack over a bruise under his left eye.
The Australian centre looked like a gladiator who had just survived a hellish battle.
The truth wasn’t too far off.
Bogut’s Warriors overcame a slow start and a 44-point onslaught from Cleveland Cavaliers’ star LeBron James on Thursday to take game one of the best-of-seven NBA Finals 108-100 in an overtime thriller.
The Warriors held the Cavaliers to just two points in the overtime period.
“Thankfully we got through the first game with a win,” Bogut told reporters crowded around him.
“Now we know what to expect in game two.”
The Cavaliers not only lost after James and guard Iman Shumpert had two three-point attempts in the final seconds to steal the game in regulation, but they have likely lost their NBA All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving had been battling knee tendinitis in his left knee and a sprained right foot throughout the playoffs, but was in sensational form playing 43 minutes, scoring 26 points, seven rebounds, six assists and containing Warriors’ League MVP Stephen Curry.
With two minutes to go in the overtime period Irving had the ball and was charging to the basket, stopped and then fell to the court.
His face was anguished as he immediately limped to the locker room and later left the Warriors’ Oracle Arena on crutches.
Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt said Irving was being evaluated by doctors.
“It was very tough to see,” James said.
“I saw how hard he worked the past eight days to get himself to play tonight.
“To see him walk out of the locker room on crutches, that’s a tough blow for our team.”
It was an historic game for Australia with three Australian-born players on the court – Bogut, Irving and Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova.
Dellavedova, who played just nine minutes and went scoreless, will likely start in Irving’s place in Sunday’s game two.
“I’m not sure, we’ll have to wait and see,” Dellavedova, asked if he expected to get more court time, said.
James, playing in his fifth-straight NBA Finals, was extraordinary in the first four quarters, but in the extra period missed three shots and had two turnovers.
As well as the 44 points, James had eight rebounds, six assists and four turnovers from almost 46 minutes on the court.
Curry had 26 points, eight assists and four rebounds.
Bogut set the defensive tone early, blocking a James shot which led to a Klay Thompson fast-break opportunity and a few seconds later Bogut intercepted a James pass.
“I was thankful I got LeBron early,” Bogut said.
“He was kind of looking for me for the rest of the game.”
Bogut finished with seven rebounds, two blocked shots and four points and was engaged in wrestling matches with Cavaliers’ big men Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.
It was Mozgov who bruised Bogut’s eye with an elbow.
With 31.9 seconds left in regulation and the Warriors up 98-96 Mozgov went to dunk, but Bogut went up hard and hit the Russian with a hard foul.
“There’s no layups at that point of the game,” Bogut smiled.
Bogut also didn’t go easy on his Australian teammate Dellavedova.
Just seconds after Dellavedova entered the game for the first time late in the second quarter Curry was bringing up the ball and Dellavedova was guarding him.
Bogut saw an opportunity to set a screen and blindsided Dellavedova with a legal check.