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Wrap-Up -- Friday’s meeting in Miami was truly a tale of two halves. Unfortunately, the second one looked all too familiar to the Wine & Gold on South Beach.
After a first half that featured 13 ties and 22 lead-changes, the second stanza featured the Heat making a procession to the free throw line, eventually pulling away to hand Cleveland the 126-110 loss – the Cavaliers’ 16th straight defeat at American Airlines Arena.
The Cavaliers led by one after one quarter and the game was knotted at 57-apiece at intermission, but Miami flummoxed Cleveland with their zone defense in the second half while putting up 69 points over the final 24 minutes.
The Wine & Gold drilled a season-high 19 triples on the night and Collin Sexton had one of the best outings of his impressive rookie season, but the Heat mauled Cleveland on the boards, 45-28, featured four reserves in double-figures and took over twice as many free throws on the night – going 24-of-33 from the stripe compared to 13-of-16 for the Cavs.
Sexton had tallied double-figures twice in the first three meetings against Miami, but he shot just a combined 29 percent from the floor in those contests. That was not the case on Friday night – going 11-of-17 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc for his team-high 27 points, adding a team-high-tying six assists.
The Cavaliers had just one reserve notch double-figures on Friday night – with Jordan Clarkson leading both benches with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, all attempts from three-point range.
Already without Tristan Thompson and with Ante Zizic logging just 15 minutes of work after coming off the league’s concussion protocol, the Cavaliers aimed to lean on Larry Nance Jr. in the middle. But Nance took a shot the chest less than two minutes into the second stanza and wasn’t able to return.
Kevin Love, coming off his fifth double-double since the Break on Wednesday night, was limited to just four boards to go with 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting against Miami.
Overall, Miami dominated the glass. Hassan Whiteside came off the Heat bench to lead both teams with 11 boards while point guard Justise Winslow snagged nine boards, blanking Sexton in the process.
Miami native Brandon Knight rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures, netting 13 of his 15 points in the first half, going 6-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc on the night, adding six assists and a steal.
Josh Richardson led eight Heat players in double-figures with 20 points, going 6-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-6 from long-range.
In the final meeting against Cleveland, future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade finished with an efficient 12-point effort – going 5-of-7 from the floor to go with five assists, a steal and blocked shot.
The Wine & Gold knock down 19 triples on Friday night.
Turning Point -- In the previous three meetings this season, Miami had topped the Wine & Gold by an average of 18.4 points per. So it was a positive sign to see both squads knotted up at intermission.
The first half of the third quarter was just as competitive, with both squads going back and forth before Jordan Clarkson’s triple at the 6:42 mark tied the game at 73-apiece.
But the Heat began to slowly pull away from there, using an 8-0 run to give themselves some space. They upped their advantage to 11 by the end of the period and began putting it on Cleveland in the fourth – extending the lead to 22 points in the closing minutes.
By the Numbers – 19.0 … points per game that Collin Sexton is averaging over his last 13 outings – notching double-figures in each, shooting .397 from beyond the arc with seven 20-point games over that stretch.
Quotable – Kevin Love, on Miami’s mastery of the Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena …
”I haven’t won here since I was in Minnesota. It’s been a while, but this is a tough place to play. They have always had our number here. It’s been a tough go against this good Miami Heat team, but we will have to change that at some point..”
Up Next -- With the Cavaliers’ two-game mini-trip behind them, it’s back home for a quick stopover at The Q – welcoming the Raptors to town for the final time this season on Monday night. From there, it’s right back on the road – traveling to Philly for a meeting with the Sixers the following evening and a meeting against the Magic in Orlando two nights later. The Cavs close out the junket with a Saturday night showdown against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks in Dallas. The Wine & Gold then come home for three straight – welcoming the Pistons, Bucks and Clippers to town the following week.