CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James made a big 3-pointer in the final minute of the second overtime and scored 41 points to offset 43 by Indiana’s Paul George, and the Cleveland Cavaliers opened their April schedule with a 135-130 win Sunday over the Indiana Pacers, who remain on the outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
James added 15 rebounds and 11 assists in 52 minutes for the defending NBA champions, who ended the game with some drama as Tristan Thompson and James angrily exchanged words during a timeout in the second OT.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) April 3, 2017
Kyrie Irving made four free throws in the final 16.5 seconds and Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds as Cleveland stayed within a half-game of Boston for the top spot in the East. The Cavs visit the Celtics on Wednesday night.
George was magnificent in defeat, scoring 19 straight points for Indiana in the overtime sessions and adding nine rebounds and nine assists. But he couldn’t prevent the Pacers from their eighth straight road loss.
C.J. Miles added 27 points for Indiana, which dropped its fourth in a row and didn’t make up any ground in the playoff chase.
After going 7-10 in March, the Cavs began the season’s final month with a solid win over a quality opponent. But they still had lapses in focus and execution, and Thompson was steaming mad after George hit a 3-pointer to pull the Pacers within 128-127 with 49 seconds left.
Love followed with a 3-pointer a few seconds later, and after Indiana called timeout, Thompson stormed toward the bench pointing and shouting at James, who couldn’t calm him down. Thompson then walked away from his huddling teammates and sat on the scorer’s table by himself. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue walked over and grabbed his hand and seemed to be trying to get him and James to work out their differences.
Earlier, James had words with long-time nemesis Lance Stephenson, who made his season debut with Indiana after re-signing with his former team last week. Stephenson scored four points in 18 minutes.
J.R. Smith dropped a corner 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left in the first overtime to give Cleveland a 114-113 lead, but Thompson fouled George with 2.1 seconds left.
Indiana’s star split his two free throws, and then George tipped away an inbounds pass to James to give the Pacers a last chance. George, though, misfired on a jumper at the horn and the teams went to the second extra session tied at 114-all.
Both teams had chances in the final minute of regulation, but Thompson missed a pair of free throws and Myles Turner short-armed a shot with 2 seconds left.
James drove the lane in the second quarter and dunked over George and Turner, giving him 11 points and extending his streak of scoring at least 10 to 787 games and tying him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-longest streak in league history. Michael Jordan scored in double digits in 866 straight games.
Pacers: Stephenson signed with Indiana on March 30, but he hasn’t practiced. He played four seasons for Indiana from 2010-14 and is remembered for blowing into James’ ear during the ’14 Eastern Conference finals. … With little time left and no margin for error, coach Nate McMillan will treat the rest of the regular season as if the playoffs are underway. “You have to take that approach,” he said. “Right now we’re on the outside looking in. We’re going to need some help from other teams but you take that approach, one game at a time and you try to win every game.”
Cavaliers: G Kyle Korver missed his fourth straight game with a sore left foot. Korver has sat out 11 of the past 14 games while dealing with the injury. He did some stationary shooting before the game, but Lue doesn’t know when he’ll have the sharpshooter back. … James is on pace to become the first player to average 25 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and shot 54 percent from the floor. … F Richard Jefferson returned after missing two games with left knee tendinitis and played 11 minutes.
Pacers: Host Toronto on Tuesday.
Cavaliers: Stay home and host Orlando on Tuesday before their showdown with the Celtics.