INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Larry Nance Jr. put himself in perfect position to make the final play Tuesday night.
After outwrestling Victor Oladipo in front of the basket, the Cleveland Cavaliers center waited patiently as he anticipated Rodney Hood’s errant layup then threw up his right hand and barely beat the buzzer.
Nance finished with 15 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, six assists and the first game-winning shot of his pro career to give the Cavaliers a rare 92-91 road victory. It ended Indiana’s seven-game winning streak.
“I told Hood to put the ball up on the rim with a couple seconds left so I can see if I could do something with it,” Nance said. “He made a good move and did exactly that. I was lucky enough to get a hand on it.”
The shot set off a wild scene in which Cavs players began mobbing Nance before the replay review confirmed the call. Even some of Cleveland’s injured players joined the celebration
Inside the Pacers locker room players watched the replay, which appeared to show Nance tossing Oladipo to the ground and lamented the lack of a whistle.
Still, Pacers coach Nate McMillan knew it should have never come down to that play. Indiana came into the game as the league’s hottest team but lacked the intensity, passion and precision that had defined the first part of this season.
Eventually, it cost them.
On a night six Cavs players scored in double figures, including Hood, who had 17 points, Indiana shot a dismal 39.8 percent from the field, was 4 of 22 on 3-pointers and lost for the first time this season when allowing fewer than 97 points.
With 9.5 seconds left, the Pacers still led 91-90 with Oladipo shooting two free throws.
But when he missed both, the Cavs got one more chance after calling timeout — and Nance made them pay.
“Larry was terrific, even beyond the putback,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “I thought he did a phenomenal job. Offensively, he made some terrific passes. He took good shots, he got to the offensive glass, and defensively he really competed.”
Domantas Sabonis had 17 points and eight rebounds while Bojan Bogdanovic added 14 points for the Pacers, who seemed to get caught overlooking one of the league’s worst teams with a showdown at Toronto looming Wednesday.
“We didn’t come ready to play. Cleveland played hungrier than we did,” Doug McDermott said. “That’s going to happen throughout the course of an NBA season, but you can’t dwell on it too long because the next one’s coming in less than 24 hours.”
Cavaliers: Alex Burks had 14 pints, Cedi Osman had 13 and Collin Sexton had 12. ... Matthew Dellavedova scored 10 points and has reached double figures in all five games he’s played since Cleveland reacquired him in a recent trade. ... The Cavs played without Kevin Love (left foot surgery), Jordan Clarkson (sore lower back), Tristan Thompson (sprained left foot) and John Henson (left wrist surgery). ... The Cavs improved to 3-11 on the road though their streak of consecutive games with 10 or more 3s ended at seven. Cleveland was 6 of 31 from beyond the arc.
Pacers: Had a two-game home winning streak against the Cavaliers end. .. Indiana is now 14-4 against Eastern Conference teams this season. ... Myles Turner had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. ... Bogdanovic has scored in double figures in 22 consecutive games, the longest streak of his NBA career. ... The Pacers are 10-1 when holding opponents to 97 or fewer points this season. ... Indiana last won seven straight in January and February 2017.
Oladipo wound up with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists on 4 of 15 shooting Tuesday.
But after returning from a sore right knee last week, the injury already seems like a distant memory to McMillan. Before the game, McMillan acknowledged Oladipo is under no restrictions and the injury has almost disappeared from the conversation since Friday’s victory at Philadelphia.
“We’ve gone back to normal with him. There haven’t been any setbacks,” he said.
Pacers: Hope to snap a nine-game losing streak at Toronto on Wednesday.