A little rest did LeBron James a world of good, as the Cleveland star came back from a night off to score 33 points in the Cavaliers’ 100-96 NBA victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
James, who sat out a blowout loss to the Washington Wizards on Sunday, added five rebounds and four assists and Tristan Thompson came off the bench to score a big basket and make a key block in the final minute to help the Eastern Conference-leading Cavs snap a two-game skid.
“I think we showed some mental toughness tonight,” said James, who posted his highest points-total of 13 games in February. “So many lead changes, so many ties. They grabbed the momentum late in the fourth and we were able to keep our composure, get some stops, make some shots and win the ballgame.”
Indiana’s Paul George had appeared to tie the game at 89-89 with a three-pointer with 4:46 to play, but a review at the next timeout showed he didn’t beat the shot clock.
That left the Pacers with a one-point lead with 2:27 to play, and James scored off an inbounds play to put the Cavaliers ahead.
“That was a game changer right there,” Cleveland’s Kevin Love said. “That was a huge difference for us.”
Thompson was huge as well. Pulled from the starting line-up before the game in favour of Timofey Mozgov, he came in for Love in the final minute and scored a go-ahead basket off a James drive with 39 seconds left, giving Cleveland a 96-94 lead.
Seconds later he rejected George Hill’s driving effort at the rim.
Guard Kyrie Irving scored 22 points with six assists for the Cavaliers, including four free throws in the final eight seconds.
The Cavs halted a skid that saw them blow a nine-point lead late in a loss at Toronto on Friday, a defeat followed by their big loss to the Wizards.
The Wizards followed up their win over the Eastern Conference leaders by rallying to beat stragglers Philadelphia 116-108.
John Wall scored 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, including eight points in a 16-0 scoring run that put the Wizards up 102-93 with less than six minutes to play.
The 76ers fell to 8-52 for the season, enduring their ninth straight defeat and 13th in 14 games.
ANTETOKOUNMPO LIFTS BUCKS
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his second triple-double in a week and Jabari Parker scored a career-high 36 points as the Bucks snapped a two-game losing streak with a 128-121 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Greece’s Antetokounmpo finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists – the last two setting up three-pointers by Jerryd Bayless – to help the Bucks secure the win.
Centre Dwight Howard led the Rockets with 30 points, with James Harden adding 26 and Trevor Ariza chipping in 20.
Harden’s long three-pointer sent the game into the fourth quarter tied at 92-92.
The Bucks built a 125-112 lead before the Rockets forced a spate of turnovers and closed within 125-121.
But the Rockets would get no closer, dropping their second decision in a row. They are eighth in the Western Conference, one half-game ahead of Utah for the final playoff berth.
The Jazz fell 100-95 to the Celtics in Boston on Monday.
THUNDER ROLL WITH WESTBROOK
Russell Westbrook notched his ninth triple-double of the season, finishing with 20 points 15 assists and 13 rebounds to help the Oklahoma City Thunder bounce back from a disappointing defeat by Golden State with a 131-116 triumph over the Kings in Sacramento.
It was just the second victory in six games for the Thunder, who surrendered 12 three-pointers to Warriors guard Stephen Curry in a 121-118 overtime loss to the reigning NBA champs on Saturday.
Thunder centre Kevin Durant added 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Kings centre DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 35 points and added 12 rebounds, despite being hampered by a sore left foot for much of the second half – after an awkward landing on opponent’s shoe in the third quarter.