CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 33 points after sitting out a game and Tristan Thompson made two huge plays in the final minute, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 100-96 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
James was rested on Sunday by coach Tyronn Lue and the Cavs were lethargic in a 113-99 loss at Washington. But with James back on the floor, Cleveland played with much more energy and again looked like a team with NBA championship aspirations.
Kyrie Irving made four free throws in the last eight seconds to put away the Pacers. Irving finished with 22 points and Thompson added 11 rebounds.
Monta Ellis scored 28 points and Paul George had 23 for the Pacers, who lost their third straight but played much better than in a loss to Portland on Sunday.
Following Cleveland’s lackluster loss at Washington, guard J.R. Smith criticized his teammates for not playing harder. The Cavs responded with a solid all-around effort but were pushed to the final seconds by the Pacers, who had three points taken away in the fourth quarter.
George’s 3-pointer with 4:46 left gave Indiana a 93-89 lead, but during a timeout, the officials reviewed the shot on video and determined it came after the 24-second shot clock had expired. George’s bucket was wiped out and James scored on a drive to put the Cavs ahead 91-90.
George and Ellis hit layups to give Indiana a three-point lead, but Dellavedova knocked down his 3 from the top of the key.
Ellis and George had 14 points apiece in the third, scoring all but two of Indiana’s points in the quarter.
A recharged James was in attack mode from the start. He scored 12 points in the first quarter, all of them coming on layups.
James was quiet through much of the second quarter before scoring 11 in the final three minutes to help the Cavs overcome a six-point deficit and take a 44-43 halftime lead.