James, Nance power Cavs past Pistons


Los Angeles (AFP)

Cleveland superstar LeBron James poured in 31 points and Larry Nance Jr. added 22 in his first start for the Cavaliers on Monday in a 112-90 triumph over the Detroit Pistons.

Nance, who arrived in Cleveland in a February 8 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, started at center in place of Tristan Thompson, who sprained an ankle against Denver on Saturday.

He and James combined to score Cleveland's first 20 points, and their combined 34 points in the first half helped stake the Cavs to a 54-49 halftime lead.

Cleveland kept the pressure on in the third quarter, out-scoring Detroit 36-21. That included 13 points from James in less than five minutes to open the second half.

He departed after three quarters having handed out seven assists and seven rebounds.

Nance pulled down 15 rebounds and helped limit Pistons center Andre Drummond to 15 points.

Blake Griffin led Detroit with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but the Pistons dropped their third straight and have now lost nine of their last 11.

They are ninth in the Eastern Conference, five games out of playoff position with the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks in seventh and eighth.

The Heat closed out a 4-1 homestand on Monday with a 125-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Center Hassan Whiteside scored 24 points with 14 rebounds in three quarters and point guard Goran Dragic added 17 points for a Heat team that saw seven players score in double figures.

The Bucks dropped to eighth in the East with a 92-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

Bojan Bogdanovic equalled a career high with 29 points and came up with a crucial jump ball in the waning seconds as the Pacers thwarted the Bucks' comeback bid.

The Pacers trailed the Bucks by two at halftime, but Bogdanovic scored 11 points in a third quarter as Indiana took a 92-89 lead.

"I'm just trying to be aggressive," he said. "Last game against Milwaukee I didn't have a lot of shots, but I tried to get to the free throw line. That was the key," explained Bogdanovic. "After that game I was scoreless here against Charlotte. I was really mad, and I just tried to tell myself that I have to be aggressive. That was kind of a big hint for me when I was scoreless."

The Pacers led by as many as 15 in the third, but the Bucks roared back with a 12-0 scoring run.

Indiana were leading 90-89 with just over five seconds left when officials were unable to determine who had possession after a loose ball went out of bounds.

When the ball was tipped, Bogdanovic came up with it and was fouled, making both free throws to give Indiana a three-point lead with 5.1 seconds left.

"I knew that I was going to hit both of them," Bogdanovic said.

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had a last chance to tie it, but his three-point effort bounced off the rim.