Cavaliers 95 - HEAT 101 Recap

MIAMI, December 15 – The Miami HEAT’s streak of nine consecutive wins by double digits was ended Wednesday night, by what may seem to be the unlikeliest of opponents.

But the win streak proper, now at 10, is alive and kicking, as the HEAT beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 101-95, in a game that was decidedly different from their previous meeting in Ohio.

The first time these two teams played, the HEAT rolled through with little resistance, winning by 28 despite a hostile environment. But tonight, with the support of their home crowd, Miami encountered a very different Cavaliers team, one that stuck to its offensive system, one that made shots and one that never stopped fighting, no matter what sort of run the HEAT came at them with.

“Every so often you’re going to have to pull wins out where you’re really going to have to grind the whole way,” Chris Bosh said.

“Those are the most dangerous teams because they’re a little more free and they have nothing to lose. It’s tough sometimes, we had fight in us, they had fight too.”

So much fight that the HEAT needed a 7-0 run in the closing minutes of the first half just to get within three of the Cavaliers by the break. A run made because the HEAT stopped settling for perimeter looks – open looks, ones they had been hitting during their winning streak, but misses nevertheless – and drove the lane, with Dwyane Wade preceding a layup by Bosh with a dunk.

Improved as Cleveland looked, the first half appeared to be unsustainable. The Cavaliers were shooting 50 percent from the field, while the HEAT were at just 42 percent. The law of averages – the same one that likely had Cleveland playing better after a stretch of poor performances – was bound to play out.

And it did, with the Cavs finishing at 40 percent and the HEAT 45. Not that it created much separation between the two teams. Though Miami only turned the ball over 13 times, their timing was such that they often halted any momentum the team had gathered by giving Cleveland an easy look in transition.

Nor did Cleveland’s offense stop completely Daniel Gibson shot 10-of-16 for 26 points, and he and Mo Williams kept their team in the game with a flurry of in-paint floaters in the second half. And even when Miami went up 14 with 4:22 to play, the Cavs fought back to within three with just over a minute to play.

The HEAT wound up sealing the game with free throws and excellent weakside defense from Joel Anthony (five blocks in 22 minutes, many of which came in the fourth quarter) after that point, but there was no doubt the game was a battle, one that wasn’t totally unexpected by coach Erik Spoelstra, and one the home team could certainly appreciate.

“You have to give that team some credit,” Spoelstra said. “They came in here and competed, they are playing very desperate, and they made it tough. [They] played a very focused, efficient, high motor game.”

Before the game, Spoelstra had said that sometimes, teams that have been playing poorly are due for a good game. Conversely, the HEAT, who had been playing so well, were themselves apparently due for a flat first half. But, in the end, the win extended their winning streak, and that’s what matters.

“Games are going to change from day to day. Some teams are going to shoot the ball well, sometimes you’re going to come out flat,” Bosh said.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve never won 10 games in a row, so I’m happy.”