Heat Pull Past Wine and Gold
Wrap-Up – The young Cavaliers continue to learn their lessons the hard way – and it doesn’t get much tougher than Wednesday night’s education at the hands of the reigning World Champs at The Q. When the smoke cleared, the Heat had extended their win streak to 24 games, but the 98-95 final doesn’t begin to tell the story of one of the strangest games of the season.
The Heat came into Wednesday’s affair chasing NBA history. Cleveland came in without its starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. But after a 35-minute delay due to a scoreboard complication, the upstart Cavaliers jumped all over Miami -- leading LeBron and Co. by eight after one quarter and by 21 at intermission. Cleveland eventually extended their edge to 27 before the Heat mounted the biggest comeback the Cavaliers have allowed in franchise history.
Shane Battier canned three threes in the third quarter and Ray Allen canned a pair of big ones in the fourth. But it was LeBron who did the majority of the damage – scoring 14 of his 25 points in the final period. His two free throws put Miami up three with 4.7 seconds to play and the Cavs had a chance to tie the game, but C.J. Miles’ three-point attempt drew back iron as time expired.
Wayne Ellington, pressed into the starting lineup with the injury to Waiters, led the Cavaliers with 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting, adding seven boards and four assists. Tristan Thompson scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter and Tyler Zeller doubled-up with 12 points and 11 boards. Shaun Livingston led Cleveland with six assists to go with a 14 points and C.J. Miles paced the reserves with 10 points and five helpers.
Turning Point – In the opening moments of the third period, the Cavs managed to hold off the Heat’s assault. But when Shane Battier began heating up late in the quarter, Cleveland’s lead evaporated quickly. Leading, 71-48, with 4:13 remaining in the third, Battier canned the first of three treys. He would hit his next pair in just a two minute span as Miami cut Cleveland’s lead to a dozen. The Heat cut it to just six before Boobie’s bomb at the buzzer temporarily stemmed the tide. But in the fourth, the Heat outscored the Cavs, 30-18.
Game Ball – Tristan Thompson – Although Tristan struggled in the second stanza, his energy propelled the Wine and Gold to their early lead – setting the tone with an aggressive 12-point, five-board first half. Thompson scored four of the Cavs’ first six points of the second half but, like the rest of the squad, struggled to find the hoop in the final 12 minutes. The second-year forward finished 8-of-15 from the floor with eight boards, three steals and a pair of assists.
By the Numbers – 14.3 … points per game Wayne Ellington is averaging in three starts this season, adding 5.0 boards per contest. His starting backcourt mate on Wednesday – Shaun Livingston – is averaging 12.9 ppg in eight starts with the Cavs.
Quotable – Daniel Gibson, on the Cavaliers’ third-quarter struggles …
”There are definitely no excuses and we’ve talked plenty of times about our third quarters and being able to finish games. I think that as a team for us to take that next step and become a playoff team, we have to understand that the game is 48 minutes long; not 24, not 36. You have to put a full game together if you want to win.”
Up Next – The Cavaliers hit the road for a Friday night affair in Houston before getting an unprecedented four nights off. When they return to The Q next week, they face the Celtics on Wednesday night and the Sixers on Friday.