Final Dime: Heat 101, Cavaliers 95
Daniel Gibson led the Cavaliers with 26 points in Wednesday's loss in Miami.
Reeling from an eight-game losing streak that was ignited by Miami less than two weeks earlier, the Cavaliers came into a hostile environment determined to scratch, claw and fight for 48 minutes. They did exactly that before a late fourth-quarter comeback attempt came up short – sending the Wine and Gold to their ninth straight defeat, 101-95.
In LeBron James’ eagerly-anticipated return to The Q on Dec. 2, an over-amped Cavaliers club was essentially out of the game by halftime. On Wednesday night, Cleveland was ahead by three at intermission and trailed by just a deuce after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, the Heat couldn’t quite pull away from the Cavaliers, even when their lead ballooned to 14 with just over four minutes to play.
Trailing 95-81, Miami was ready to begin celebrating its 10th straight double-digit win. But Anderson Varejao’s hustle and Daniel Gibson’s sharp-shooting brought the Cavaliers back. When Antawn Jamison sunk his second free throw with 1:09 to play, the Wine and Gold had sliced Miami’s lead to just three, 96-93.
But Cleveland would get no closer. Gibson and Mo Williams misfired on three-pointers and LeBron sank three free throws in the closing seconds to seal the deal.
For fans who were upset with the Cavaliers’ lack of fight in their last meeting with Miami, they saw a different team on Wednesday night. Byron Scott’s squad was extremely physical – refusing to allow the Heat any easy buckets.
“I couldn’t ask for them to play any harder than they played,” praised Coach Scott. “I thought they were terrific, effort-wise. Thought the energy was fantastic and I thought they competed for all 48 minutes of the game.”
Daniel Gibson turned in a heroic performance in the loss – going 10-for-16 from the floor, including 4-for-7 from long-distance – and notching 17 of his team-high 26 points in the second half.
Varejao was just as clutch on Wednesday, doubling up with 18 points and 15 rebounds – 13 and 12 of which came in the second half. The Wild Thing went 6-for-10 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the stripe, grabbing six of his boards off the offensive glass.
Antawn Jamison had a strong outing with 15 points and eight boards and Mo Williams added 13 points and a game-high nine assists, despite going just 1-for-10 from beyond the arc.
Anthony Parker rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 11 points, but his contribution on the defensive end almost single-handedly kept Cleveland in the game. Parker bounced between LeBron and Dwyane Wade. In the second half, he checked James exclusively, holding the two-time MVP to just 1-of-5 shooting in the second half. Overall, LeBron finished with 21 points, but was just 5-for-15 from the floor.
As a team, Cleveland shot 40 percent from the floor, but just 27 percent from three-point range. They attempted 20 free throws to Miami’s 41 – canning 16.
The Cavaliers round out a very difficult road stretch that’s seen them play seven of their last eight games away from The Q on Friday night in Indiana.
2. Anderson Varejao came into Wednesday’s game as the league’s 12th-best rebounder at 9.6 rpg. After snagging another 15 boards against Miami, the Wild Thing has now averaged 12.1 boards per contest over his last six.
3. The Cavaliers have had seven different players lead the team in scoring. The Heat, on the other hand, have been led by one of their Big Three in every game this season.
4. Cleveland came into Miami with a three-game win streak against the Heat.
5. Before Wednesday’s game, LeBron was asked if he had talked to any Cavaliers leading up to the rematch. Referring to the backlash from his Dec. 2 game, James quipped, “Nah, I don’t think they’re allowed to talk to me.”
6. Daniel Gibson has now notched double-figures in 17 of his last 21 games. His 26 points on Wednesday was a season-high.
7. Last week, Gibson moved into fourth place on the Cavaliers all-time list three-pointers made, passing Craig Ehlo. He’s now just 149 treys behind Danny Ferry, and he’s eager to reach the man who drafted him.
“That’s the guy I really want to catch right there,” smiled Boobie, adding that when he does, “I’ll make sure I put in a call to him.”
8. The Heat and Cavaliers came in as the two best teams in the league at protecting the ball, both right around 13 turnovers per contest. The Heat were right at their average on Wednesday. Cleveland committed just eight miscues.
9. The Cavaliers went with just an eight-man rotation on Wednesday night. The highest scoring bench in the league got four points apiece from J.J. Hickson, Ramon Sessions and Joey Graham.
10. Wednesday’s contest at AmericanAirlines Arena didn’t have near the venom of the Dec. 2 matchup at The Q, but fans were still in a combative mood. They booed the Cavaliers during opening intros and throughout the game. Midway through the fourth quarter, a Cavaliers fan in a Varejao jersey got into a beef with a pair of Heat fans.
The Heat duo got the heave-ho first, followed by the brave Cavs fan – who left with two fingers raised to show that Cleveland’s still No. 1.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.