OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were their usual brilliant selves. J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson made big contributions.
Despite all that firepower, there would be no dramatic NBA Finals comeback this season.
Kevin Durant and the star-laden Golden State Warriors made sure of that.
James had 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists and Irving added 26 points but the Cavs never could dig out of a hole created by a second-quarter barrage and ended their season with a 129-120 loss to the Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night.
Cleveland has now lost two of the three showdowns in this Finals trilogy. Their one title came last year when the Cavs became the first NBA team to rally from a 3-1 Finals deficit to deliver the city its first major championship since 1964.
The Cavs managed to stave off elimination once in this series with a 137-116 win in Game 4 at home but couldn’t pull off another improbable comeback this year.
James had a spectacular series, averaging 33.6 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists but it wasn’t enough. When it was over, James went straight to Durant and gave a long embrace to his rival, who got revenge for losing the title with Oklahoma City to James’ Miami Heat five years ago.
Cleveland got off to a fast start and built a 41-33 lead on a dunk by James early in the second quarter. Durant appeared to commit his third foul on the play, but the officials let it go and the game quickly turned.
The Warriors responded with a 28-4 run for a lead they never gave up after that. The Cavs offense stagnated during that stretch as Cleveland missed 9 of 11 shots from the field, turned the ball over three times and had two missed free throws from Kevin Love.
The game-changing spurt ended with a scuffle when Golden State’s David West shoved Irving as he tried to grab the ball away. Thompson and Smith confronted West and all three of those players got technical fouls.
James hit a 3-pointer on the next possession and the Cavs didn’t go away, cutting a 17-point deficit to three in the opening minute of the fourth quarter with help from Smith’s 25 points.
But unlike last year’s comeback when they took advantage of Harrison Barnes’ offensive struggles, Durant answered every charge during a 39-point night and Cleveland will need to find new answers if these teams meet in a fourth straight Finals next season.
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