OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — LeBron James had 41 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, Kyrie Irving also scored 41 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers capitalized on the Warriors playing without suspended star Draymond Green, staving off NBA Finals elimination with a 112-97 victory in Game 5 on Monday night.
James and Irving became the first teammates to score 40 points in an NBA Finals game as the Cavaliers pulled within 3-2 and sent their best-of-seven series back to Ohio.
“We’re just happy we got another day. That’s all we can ask for,” James said. “We got another day to survive. We’re going to start preparing tonight, start preparing tomorrow and whenever Game 6 is we’ll be ready.”
Take that, haters. James had much more to say about these playoffs before he’s done — and not with his mouth, even as the criticism came from all directions following his Game 4 tussle with Green and reaction to what he considered the Golden State forward’s inappropriate words. He was booed again as the Cavs left the court for their locker room, but thousands of fans had already made for the exits minutes earlier.
The Cavs handed defending champion Golden State just its fourth defeat at sold-out Oracle Arena all season, denying MVP Stephen Curry and the Warriors a chance to celebrate a second straight title with their golden-clad “Strength In Numbers” supporters. Now, Curry and Co. must try to win on the road just the way the Warriors did last year and also in their only other championship season out West in 1975.
The Warriors will get Green back Thursday as they try again for that repeat title.
Banned from the arena, Green watched from a baseball suite in the Oakland Coliseum next door, joined by Golden State general manager Bob Myers.
The All-Star forward was suspended Sunday for his fourth flagrant point of the postseason. He was assessed a retroactive Flagrant-1 for his swipe at James in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Game 4.
Tied 61-all at halftime Monday, the Warriors missed 14 of their first 20 shots out of intermission and shot 7 for 24 in the third as James and the Cavs grabbed command by doing all of the little things on both ends of the floor — the very intangibles Golden State desperately missed without Green’s high-energy presence on both ends. James jumped in the passing lanes to create defensive havoc, flipped passes around and got open.
Klay Thompson scored 37 points with six 3-pointers and Curry added 25 points with five 3s, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. But as the game wore on, the Splash Brothers shot airballs and clanked 3-point tries off the front rim. The Warriors often failed to get a hand in the face of Cleveland’s shooters.
Irving’s three-point play with 7:30 remaining put Cleveland ahead 102-92, and the Cavs kept pushing. They answered on offense and made all the key stops on defense.
“I’m thankful, but at the same time we wouldn’t be in any position without both of us putting on a performance like this,” Irving said. “Our guys coming in and just trusting our leadership and doing it for four quarters — that’s what it’s about.”
Kevin Love returned to the starting lineup for the first time since sustaining a concussion in Game 2 here on June 5 and played 34 minutes.
Warriors center Andrew Bogut went down early in the third grabbing his left knee and writhing in pain, and the team said he was being examined.
In a rare sight during this record-setting season, Warriors fans headed out early with Golden State unable to rally.