OAKLAND, California – LeBron James laughed at Klay Thompson’s comments this week about the NBA being a man’s league. Instead, he thought of a punishment far worse than anything he could say.
He brought the Golden State Warriors back to Cleveland one more time.
James had 41 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists and Kyrie Irving scored a career postseason high 41 points on a night the Cavaliers staved off elimination with a 112-97 victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. The series shifts back to Cleveland for Game 6 Thursday night.
The Cavs took full advantage of Draymond Green’s absence. Green was suspended after he was retroactively assessed a flagrant for punching James in the groin late in Game 4. It was his fourth flagrant foul point of the postseason, triggering an automatic one-game suspension.
Then the Warriors lost center Andrew Bogut two minutes into the second half with a left knee injury. Bogut landed awkwardly when J.R. Smith inadvertently rolled into the knee, leaving Bogut crumpled under the basket for two possessions in obvious pain. He had to be helped from the floor and couldn’t put any weight on his left leg.
With little rim protection and the Warriors down their best defensive player, James dominated the floor. He made four 3-pointers, swatted chasedown blocks and pieced together his most dominant performance of this postseason.
It was his first 40-point game, regular season or playoffs, and he returns to Cleveland leading these Finals in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.
Irving was equally terrific, producing his third consecutive 30-point game in this series. Irving scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and 23 in the second half. His basket with 5:33 left silenced an already defeated Oracle crowd and extended the Cavs’ lead to 109-96.
The Warriors failed to close out the series at home in part because they shot 3 of 21 from the 3-point line in the second half after going 11 of 21 in the first half. Klay Thompson dazzled in the first half when he scored 26 points and made six 3-pointers one day after calling the NBA “a man’s league” and poking fun at James for getting his feelings hurt by things Green said to the Cavs’ superstar late in Game 4.
Turns out, Thompson only unleashed a James no one had seen all season.
Thompson finished with 37 points and Steph Curry scored 25, but shot 5 of 14 on 3-pointers. Andre Iguodala was the only other Warrior in double figures with 15 points.
Green, meanwhile, watched the game from a suite at O.co Coliseum, the Oakland Athletics’ stadium that is just a few steps from Oracle Arena. Warriors general manager Bob Myers joined him in the suite for the game. Green was going to be allowed back in the arena if there was a postgame championship celebration.
Warriors fans tirelessly booed James throughout the night while chanting “Free Draymond” at every opportunity.
The Cavs withstood the Warriors’ initial onslaught. They committed five turnovers through their first eight possessions, but a quick timeout from coach Tyronn Lue 3 1/2 minutes into the game seemed to settle things down.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr rotated a number of bodies through Green’s vacant spot and got creative with his lineups. His lineup of Curry, Harrison Barnes, James Michael McAdoo, Leandro Barbosa and Festus Ezeli didn’t play together at all until the first quarter Monday.
Kerr used 11 players in the first quarter, although the bulk of the reserves rotated through one position while regulars Iguodala, Barnes, Curry and Thompson logged their usual heavy minutes.
Tristan Thompson grabbed 15 rebounds for the Cavs and Kevin Love returned to the starting lineup, but managed just two points and three rebounds in 34 minutes. On this night, it didn’t matter. Against all odds, the Cavs are returning home with one more shot to again extend their season.
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