OAKLAND – Call it what you will, but from here, effective is a pretty good word. Maybe it was even brilliant.

When LeBron James stepped over Draymond Green with 2:42 to go in the fourth quarter of the Cavs’ loss to Golden State in Cleveland on Friday, he was trying to goad Green into a reaction. He surely knew the benefits of a reaction, and knew that Green’s buttons could be pressed enough to ensure one. James got that reaction when Green swiped at James following the step-over, earning a flagrant foul after a review from the league — and an automatic suspension for accruing his fourth flagrant-foul point.

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Warriors fans might not like it, but it was a smart ploy by James, and there was no arguing the results on Monday after James’ strategy came to a brilliant completion. Without Green in the game, James ran wild on the Warriors’ defense, scoring 41 points with 16 rebounds and seven assists. His play also created room — the kind of room that wasn’t available when Green was playing — for Kyrie Irving, who also had 41 points in a decisive 112-97 Cavaliers win.

“I mean, obviously it’s do or die for us,” James said. “Coach Lue said he wanted the ball in my hands a little bit more. I finally did a great job of not turning the ball over, got to my spots, got my teammates involved. Just tried to put us in position to be successful. Obviously, it’s not always a bed of roses on the court for 48 minutes, but you just try to go out there and trust your team. That’s something I’m very comfortable with, and I’ve been comfortable with before in the past.”

But as well as Irving shot the ball on Monday, this was all about James. With Green out, it should have been. Heck, even when Green returns, it still should be. From the start of this series, the Cavs have been wrong not to recognize that to have any chance of beating the Warriors, they were going to need the kind of epic James performances we saw from him in last year’s Finals, when Irving was injured in Game 1 and James averaged 32.7 shots and 11.2 free throws per game. In the first four games of this series, James averaged 21.3 shots and 4.3 free throws. That was never going to cut it.

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In Game 5, James was far more aggressive, taking 30 shots and making 16 of them. He went to the free-throw line eight times. Playing against a Green-free Warriors lineup, James looked herculean.

The play that put James over the 40-point mark — it came with 3:22 in the fourth quarter — was a fine example. James dribbled the ball from the right wing to the foul line, with Brandon Rush on him as he tried to back down toward the basket. He bumped Rush twice, spun to face the hoop and pump-faked, drawing Rush into the air. James lowered his shoulder, took the contact from Rush and fell to the floor, launching a shot as he did. It went in, Rush grimaced when the whistle blew for a foul and James clenched together his lips and tightened his fists, a silent celebration punctuated by three quick air jabs from Irving.

That play probably doesn’t happen against Green, who is strong enough to knock James out of his sweet spots in the post and long enough to harass James’ shot without biting on the ball fake. There were examples of that all night as Warriors coach Steve Kerr sought to mix his lineups in order to make up for Green’s loss. But defensively, against James, there was no mixing that could replicate how Green has handled James in this series.

James surely knows that. It was laughable on

Sunday when James said he was not thinking about Green’s flagrant-foul problems late in Game 4 when he instigated the play that led to Green’s punch. (“I didn't even know at that point in time,” James said.) Anyone who has watched James over the course of his career knows he is a scrupulously above-board player, and except for the occasional lapse, he doesn’t get rattled or indulge in tit-for-tat dirty plays. James is too smart and has too good a reputation for the step-over to have been something he’d do impulsively.

But, hey, when you’re down 3-1 in a seven-game series, you’ve got scratch and claw to keep your season alive. Even if it means bending and taking advantage of the rules.

James did that, first by nudging Green into a suspension, then by exploiting that suspension by running roughshod through the guts of the Golden State defense. It was a vintage James performance, reminiscent of the Game 6 he had in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals at the Boston Garden, when, with the Heat facing elimination, he went for 45 points and 15 rebounds.

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“Going into Boston, being down 3-2, you know, we understood that, listen, the season is over if we don’t go out and try to take care of business,” James said. “Being a big part of our success, I had to come out and do some things to help us win that ballgame, and tonight was just another example of that. Understood the magnitude of this game.”

Teammate Richard Jefferson, a former Net, recalled seeing James have a 36-point, 12-assists performance in the 2007 East semifinals. “I’ve played against him in the playoffs, when I was in New Jersey and he was here,” Jefferson said. “You just really and truly believe he is going to bring his best effort and if he needs to, carry us.”

If there was anything that shone through in the first four games of the series, it was that James did need to carry the team, and was not doing a very good job of it. Green was a major factor in that, and James was granted a Game 5 reprieve of his own making.

The suspension is up, now. We’re on to Game 6 and for James, here comes the tricky part. He will have to figure out how the one thing that has perplexed him all series — how to play the way he did with Green off the floor while Green is back on the floor.