(The Sports Xchange) - First, Kevin Love signaled that the Indiana Pacers should’ve been called for an eight-second violation in the backcourt.
Then he patted his head to signal Paul George’s 3-pointer came after the shot clock.
Finally he twirled his index finger toward the officials to signal they should review the play.
“I was giving so many signals,” Love joked. “I felt like a third-base coach out there.”
Ultimately, he was correct. George’s 3-pointer was taken away and the Cleveland Cavaliers ended a two-game losing streak with a 100-96 victory against the Pacers.
George’s 3-pointer appeared to tie the game at 89 with 4:46 left, but officials agreed to review the play at the next timeout.
That didn’t come until 2:27 remained. By then, the Pacers went into the timeout leading by four. They came out of it clinging to a one-point lead and suddenly were trailing when LeBron James scored off the inbounds play to give the Cavs the lead.
“That was a game changer right there,” Love said. “That was a huge difference for us.”
James scored 33 points after taking a day off and Tristan Thompson came off the bench to provide a big basket and block, both in the final minute, after the Cavs had lost three of their last four.
Thompson was pulled from the starting lineup prior to the game in favor of Timofey Mozgov. He replaced Love in the final minute for defensive purposes, then scored the go-ahead basket off a 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 moments later preserved the victory. Thompson, who has bounced between the starting lineup and a reserve role all season, said he cherished the block over the basket.
“Defense wins big games,” Thompson said. “If they need me to come off the bench or start, whatever it takes to win, my role doesn’t change.”
Guard Kyrie Irving had 22 points and six assists, including four free throws in the final eight seconds to clinch the win.
Love had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. It was a difficult few days for the Cavs, who blew a nine-point lead in the final six minutes to lose Friday at Toronto.
They were blown out Sunday by the Washington Wizards while James rested.
“When our backs are against the wall, that’s when we tend to play harder,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “It’s annoying, but when you have a team like we have with great individual players, they can turn it on at any point in time. Sometimes it can come back and bite you.”
Guard Monta Ellis scored 28 points for the Pacers, while George had 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The two combined to score 28 of the Pacers’ 30 points in the third quarter.
George wasn’t sure whether his big 3-pointer would be overturned, but Pacers coach Frank Vogel was not surprised.
“It didn’t need to be explained at all,” Vogel said. “They made the right call. We knew it was coming off. I knew it was coming off.”
The Cavs have won all three games between these two teams this season, but it hasn’t been easy. They gutted out a four-point win in Cleveland in early November, needed overtime to win at Indiana and trailed by four with seven minutes left Monday.
“Obviously they’re ahead of us, but I do feel like we’re pretty evenly matched with anybody in the East,” Vogel said. “We can play with this team. We know we can. We just haven’t finished.”
Even George, who was critical of his team’s toughness following Sunday’s home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, seemed a bit more pleased after this loss.
“We played together. We took it to this team,” George said. “We played aggressive. It’s another game where we were up and for whatever reason, we couldn’t finish.”