NBA: LeBron's 42-point haul leads Cavs past Warriors in finals preview

CLEVELAND (AFP) - LeBron James posted a season-high 42 points with 11 rebounds and five assists on Thursday to lead Cleveland to a 110-99 NBA victory over league-leading Golden State.

In a game touted as a possible NBA finals preview, James insisted the Cavaliers weren't out to make a statement against the Warriors, but they did so nevertheless.

Cleveland avenged a 112-94 loss to the Warriors in January as they notched their fourth straight victory and an 18th win in their last 20 games. Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points and Kevin Love chipped in 16 points and eight rebounds for the hosts.

"We're not trying to send a message, we're just trying to improve every time we get an opportunity to come out on the floor and play," said James.

His Cavs are finally clicking in the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player's first season back in Cleveland after four years and two title runs in Miami.

"We've been doing some good things the last couple of months, but we've still got a lot of room to improve. Hopefully we'll continue that," James said after posting his 55th career 40-point game.

The Cavaliers have taken a slim lead over Chicago top the Central Division, and their 37-22 record puts them third overall in the Eastern Conference behind Atlanta and Toronto.

The Warriors, whose 44-11 record is the best in the league, will try to regroup quickly for Friday's game against the Raptors.

David Lee led the Warriors with 19 points. Draymond Green added 16 points and eight rebounds. Stephen Curry scored 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter but was then effectively stifled by the Cavaliers' defense.

Curry connected on five of 17 shots for the game. The Cavaliers emerged with the lead from a high-scoring first half.

Curry and Lee combined for 23 points in the first quarter as the Warriors made half of their shots to seize a 33-32 lead. Cleveland responded with an 8-0 scoring run, as James scored the final six points of the burst that carried the Cavs to a 43-37 lead with more than eight minutes left in the second quarter.

Golden State quickly tied the score, but a three-pointer from Love late in the frame helped the Cavs take a 61-56 halftime lead. Golden State sharp-shooter Klay Thompson made his first three-pointer of the night early in the third to trim the deficit.

James answered with a jump shot and closed a 12-0 Cavaliers scoring run with five straight points that extended the hosts' lead to 16.

Cleveland led 90-78 going into the fourth quarter and didn't give up the advantage in the final period.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.