James triple-double propels Cavs over Bucks

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Los Angeles (AFP)

LeBron James unleashed his 16th triple-double of the season Monday as the Cleveland Cavaliers welcomed Kevin Love back from injury with a 124-117 NBA win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

It was an upbeat ending to a difficult day, with the Cavs announcing earlier that head coach Tyronn Lue was taking some time off to deal with health concerns.

Love, a five-time All-Star, played his first game since breaking his left hand on January 30, scoring 18 points and pulling down seven rebounds.

"He gives us that real inside presence along with his ability to shoot the ball from the outside," coach Larry Drew, standing in for Lue, said. "More than anything, I think we've really missed being able to go to someone else inside other than LeBron."

But as so often for Cleveland, James was the real difference maker. He scored 17 of his 40 points in the third quarter as the Cavaliers took control.

James added 12 rebounds and 10 assists -- the 71st triple-double of his career -- as Cleveland won for the third time in their last four games.

Cleveland led by 17 points with less than five minutes to play and weathered a 14-3 Milwaukee scoring run that trimmed the deficit to six.

But James never relented. With 1:12 remaining he grabbed a rebound and raced the length of the court for a dunk.

Cleveland's Jordan Clarkson added two free throws to push the lead to 121-113, the Cavs making five of six from the foul line in the last 36.3 seconds to seal the win.

Two-time All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks, posting his 23rd 30-point game of the season with 37 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Cleveland, trying to get back to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year, maintained their hold on third place in the Eastern Conference.

The Indiana Pacers were just half a game behind Cleveland after a 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Trailing by two points at halftime, the Pacers out-scored the Lakers by 14 points in the third quarter to snap a two-game skid and strengthen their position in the tightly bunched East.

Five Pacers players scored in double figures, led by Myles Turner's 21.

Victor Oladipo added 20 -- including an impressive put-back dunk that was part of Indiana's third-quarter surge.

"They were kind of cutting us in transition a little bit and we did a great job of slowing that down," Oladipo said of the Pacers' second-half adjustments. "In the second half, I think we did a great job of getting stops and defending at a high level."

- Simmons triple-double -

In Philadelphia, Australian rookie Ben Simmons unleashed his ninth triple-double of the season as the 76ers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 108-94.

Simmons scored 11 points with 15 assists and 12 rebounds. His 19th game with 10 or more assists saw him pass Hall of Famer Allen Iverson's franchise rookie record.

Joel Embiid scored a game-high 25 points and tied his career high with 19 rebounds for Philadelphia, who are in sixth place in the East -- just half a game behind the fifth-placed Washington Wizards and a game behind the Pacers.

There was drama in Miami, where the Heat beat the Memphis Grizzlies 149-141 in double-overtime to move into seventh place in the East -- half a game ahead of the eighth-placed Bucks.