The Cleveland Cavaliers showed how important LeBron James is to their team on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena against their division rivals the Indiana Pacers. After sitting out Sunday’s blowout loss to the Washington Wizards 113-99 in the nation’s capital, James scored a game high 33 points as the Cavaliers scrapped and clawed their way to a 100-96 victory and snap their two game losing streak.
James was given Sunday off by head coach Tyronn Lue after playing the entire second half of Friday’s loss to Kyle Lowry and the Raptors in Toronto. Lue wants to monitor LeBron’s minutes over the rest of the regular season so he is as rested as possible for the playoffs.
Monday night’s game was a battle from the opening tip till the final seconds of the game. Both teams came out with a defensive mindset. Indiana would take a 19-18 lead after the first quarter. James had 12 of the Cavaliers 18 first quarter points.
Cleveland would fight their way back and grab a one point lead at halftime at 44-43. Neither team built a lead of double digits the entire game. The Cavaliers would get the biggest call of the game late in the fourth quarter. A Paul George three pointer with 4:46 remaining gave Indiana a four point lead at 93-89. The shot was taken away during a time out over two minutes later at the 2:27 mark. The officials took a second look at the shot and replay showed that George did not get the shot off before the 24 second shot clock hit zero.
“It didn’t need to be explained at all,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “They made the right call. We knew it was coming off. I knew it was coming off.”
“Huge,” Kevin Love said. “A game changer right there. That was a huge difference for us.”
With the score back to 90-89 Indiana, the Cavaliers would grab the lead on a James lay-up, his only points in the fourth quarter to make the score 91-90. The Pacers wouldn’t panic though and would grab a three point lead at 94-91 with 1:30 remaining on baskets by George and Monta Ellis.
The rest of the game would belong to the home team Cavaliers. Matthew Dellavedova would tie the game at 94 with one of his two made three point shots on the night. Dellavedova had six points and five assists off the Cavaliers bench. Tristan Thompson would knock down a jumper which proved to be the game winning basket with :39 seconds left. Thompson stepped up big on the Cavaliers next defensive possession. Thompson would block George Hill’s attempt to tie the game. Thompson came off the bench on Monday as coach Lue decided to start Timofey Mozgov at center and let Thompson add some more energy off the bench. Kyrie Irving would knock down two free throws to ice the game and give the Cavaliers a much needed victory after a very difficult weekend both on and off the court.
We showed some mental toughness,” James said. “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. The fact that we responded like we did tonight is a good sign. We put ourselves in dark spots and we have to build our way out of them.”
Irving finished with 22 points and connected on all eleven free throw attempts on the night. It was a solid all around performance for Irving who has been criticized for his defense and play making decisions as of late to go along with a report by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN saying that he wants out of Cleveland.
Love would struggle with his shot on Monday night and finish with just 13 points, but would record eight rebounds and six assists. J.R. Smith would finish with eleven points on four of eleven shooting. Smith was just three of ten from three point territory but the third make gave the Cavaliers a lead in the fourth quarter after the Cavaliers fell behind by five points. Thompson provided the energy off the bench that coach Lue was looking for. Thompson recorded another double double, 14 points and eleven rebounds. Mozgov only scored one point in 16 minutes of action but did pull down eight rebounds.
Ellis lead Indiana with a season high 28 points. George finished with 23. Hill added eleven points. Chase Budinger scored eleven points off the bench.
The Cavaliers are 3-0 against the Pacers this season, but all three games have been very close. The combined margin of victory is 13 points. Monday’s win opened up a four game homestand for Cleveland who are off until Friday night when the Cavaliers will look for revenge against the Washington Wizards. Expect LeBron James to play in that game.