CLEVELAND — The rest helped LeBron James. The replay aided the Cavaliers.
James scored 33 points after sitting out a game and Tristan Thompson made two huge plays in the final minute, leading Cleveland to a 100-96 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
James was given Sunday off by coach Tyronn Lue, who wants to monitor his superstar’s playing time down the stretch, 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.
"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."
Beyond that, the Cavs also caught a break when a 3-pointer by Indiana’s Paul George in the fourth quarter was nullified following a video review by the officials.
"Huge," Cavs forward Kevin Love said of the ruling, which reduced Indiana’s lead to one. "A game changer right there. That was a huge difference for us."
Matthew Dellavedova hit a tying 3-pointer for the Cavs with 1:13 left before Thompson, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Timofey Mozgov, scored underneath off a pass from James to make it 96-94 with 18 seconds remaining. Thompson then came across the lane to block a short shot by George Hill.
Kyrie Irving made four free throws in the last eight seconds to put away the Pacers. Irving finished with 22 points — he went 11 of 11 from the line — and Thompson added 11 rebounds for the Cavs, who were criticized following Sunday’s poor performance by teammate J. R. Smith for not playing harder.
The Cavs recovered with a solid all-around effort, but were pushed to the final seconds by the Pacers.
"The fact that we responded like we did tonight is a good sign," James said. "We put ourselves in dark spots and we have to build our way out of them."
Although it may keep him fresh for the playoffs, James said watching his teammates on Sunday wasn’t easy.
"I wish I was on the court. That’s what I felt," he said. "I never like my guys having to go out there and go through that. And obviously those guys know they could’ve played much better than the effort that they gave. You’re the leader of a ballclub, you never want to see your guys go through that."
Monta Ellis scored 28 points and George had 23 for the Pacers, who lost their third straight but played much better than in a loss to Portland on Sunday.
George’s 3-pointer with 4:46 left had given Indiana a 93-89 lead, but during a timeout with 2:27 left, the officials reviewed the shot 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.
"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."
Pacers: G/F C.J. Miles missed his fifth straight game with a strained left calf. Miles did not accompany the team to Cleveland, but Vogel said he could rejoin the Pacers for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee, the second stop on a four-game trip. … Vogel disagreed with George’s assessment following Sunday’s loss that the Pacers aren’t physical. "We didn’t play tough last night, but I feel like we have a tough basketball team," Vogel said.
Cavaliers: Lue offered no excuses for his team’s poor performance at Washington, saying his team needs to be mentally stronger at this point in the season. "What we’re trying to do, trying to win a championship, you can’t have days like that," he said. "You have to come out and compete, no matter how tough the season is, no matter how many back-to-backs or three in four nights we have." … G Mo Williams will miss at least two more weeks with a sore left knee. Williams, who began the season in Cleveland’s starting lineup while Irving recovered from knee surgery, has been bothered by soreness in his knee for months.