CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.
— LeBron James was the last player in the Cavs’ history to make a Finals appearance and he will make a second one.
The Cavs beat the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, knocking off the NBA’s reigning champion in their fifth straight NBA Finals.
James scored 41 points, including a career-high 16 assists, and Kyrie Irving added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who won for the third time in five seasons.
James had 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the first quarter alone, and the Warriors (30-9) have won seven of the last eight games.
The Warriors were playing without Kevin Durant, who missed his fifth straight game with a calf strain.
Durant has been out since Feb. 2 with a sprained left ankle and his absence has affected the Cavs.
“We got a lot of guys that have come in and worked hard, have been able to compete,” said James, who also has seven triple-doubles.
“That’s what makes this series so interesting, because every game matters, and you want to get the best out of each guy.
The Warriors led 57-40 at halftime. “
Every time you play these playoffs, you have to get better and play smarter, and we’re all trying to do that.”
The Warriors led 57-40 at halftime.
The Cavaliers started off with a 15-2 run to take a 53-45 lead into the fourth.
But James hit a 3-pointer with 5:33 left that cut it to 57-43.
Irving scored nine points and James had a pair of 3s for a 15th-point lead.
But the Warriors closed to within two with 11:31 left.
James’ 3-point play, which gave the Cavs a 53 to 43 lead with 1:11 left, helped them take control in the fourth quarter, and they closed with a 9-0 run to tie the game at 54-54.
The teams split the next two games.
Golden State had a chance to take control late in the game when James made a jumper, but Irving blocked a three-point attempt.
James hit consecutive 3-pointers with 11.9 seconds left in the third, but Durant made a 3 and Irving missed a 3 for the Warriors.
James finished with 23 points and seven assists, as the Cavs made it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1999.
They beat the Thunder in five games last year.
James and Irving are among the top players in the league in scoring, rebounds and blocks.
They have led the league at least 30 points in each of the past two seasons.
They will be back in the finals this year after losing the title to the Cavs in six games in the regular season.
The NBA’s highest-paid player has made at least $100 million in his first two seasons with the Warriors, who have been the NBA Finals’ best team since the 2014-15 season.
Durant had 21 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for Golden State.
He missed the final six games of the season with a sore left knee.
Durant is expected to miss at least three months.
Golden States forward Draymond Green had 17 points for the Thunder, who had lost three of four to Cleveland.
James, Green and guard Russell Westbrook are averaging 30.4 points in the series.
The Thunder won the first three meetings, winning all three matchups.
Durant finished with 19 points for his first career triple-double.
He’s the only player to have three-straight 20-point games in consecutive games.
Cleveland has won the last three meetings.