CLEVELAND • Centre Tristan Thompson gave the Cleveland Cavaliers the lead in the final minute and then preserved it with a big block in the Cavs' 100-96 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday to stop a two-game losing streak.
Thompson, who was pulled from the starting line-up prior to the game, replaced Kevin Love in the final minute for defensive purposes. Then he scored the go-ahead basket off a LeBron James drive to give the Cavaliers a 96-94 lead with 39 seconds left.
His block at the rim of guard George Hill's drive preserved the victory after the Cavs had lost three of their last four National Basketball Association games.
James, who sat out a rout by the Washington Wizards on Sunday, scored 33 points. He pulled down five rebounds and four assists too.
I'M THE SCAPEGOAT
When they think that we're down and out, they're going to choose one player, so, for me it has no effect on my life or what's going on. It's all about winning and winning a championship for Cleveland.
KYRIE IRVING, Cavaliers point guard, on rumours that he is unhappy and wants to leave the team.
"We showed some mental toughness," he said, after a game that was tied on 17 occasions and had 25 lead changes.
"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 ball game."
A three-pointer from Pacers forward Paul George with 4min 46sec left appeared to tie the game at 89 apiece, but officials discounted the basket during the next stoppage in play.
They ruled with 2:27 left that his basket came after the shot clock expired, trimming a four-point Pacers lead to just 90-89.
"That was a game changer right there," said Love, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. "That was a huge difference for us."
George finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Guard Monta Ellis led the Pacers with 28 points. Indiana (31-29) are eighth in the Eastern Conference, which is led by the Cavs (42-17).
"Obviously they're ahead of us, but I do feel like we're pretty evenly matched with anybody in the East," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. "We can play with this team. We know we can. We just haven't finished."
Guard Kyrie Irving had 22 points and six assists for Cleveland, including four free throws in the final eight seconds to clinch the win.
It was the three-time NBA All-Star's first game since ESPN's Stephen A. Smith claimed that Irving was unhappy playing for the Cavs.
"Dating back to last year, I've been told that Kyrie Irving ain't too happy being in Cleveland," Smith said on ESPN's First Take on Monday morning.
"I don't know the particulars, I haven't spoken to him personally. It's something that I've been hearing for months - that under ideal circumstances he would prefer to be someplace other than Cleveland."
According to various American media, James has been frustrated by Irving's lack of playmaking. The guard has averaged just 4.4 assists this season. He has also been criticised for his lack of work on defence.
Irving responded to Smith's comments post-game, insisting that he is determined to win the NBA title with the Cavaliers.
"There's nothing to really address," said the 23-year-old.
"Obviously there are going to be some misunderstandings - it's part of being on a team. For me, as a maturing young player in this league, I know what we have and the opportunity we have in order to be something special...
"When they think that we're down and out, they're going to choose one player, so, for me it has no effect on my life or what's going on. It's all about winning and winning a championship for Cleveland."