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If the Cavaliers were looking to avenge an ugly defeat two nights earlier on South Beach, they couldn’t have made the Heat swallow a more bitter pill than in Monday’s season series finale.
Cleveland trailed by 22 points with just over a minute to play in the third quarter before mounting their biggest comeback of the season – catching the Heat in regulation and blowing past them in overtime – taking the thrilling 125-119 win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, their third victory in the last four outings.
Miami won the first three games of the season series by an average of 18.0 points and hadn’t trailed at any point through Saturday’s contest and the first three quarters on Monday.
But the Cavaliers caught fire early in the fourth period – outscoring Miami, 31-12, over the final 12 minutes to force an extra session.
Rookie Kevin Porter Jr., who’d combined to tally exactly five points through the first two games after the break, led both squads with a career-high 30 points, going 9-of-18 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from long-range and 8-of-10 from the stripe, adding eight boards, three assists and a career-high three steals despite battling foul trouble most of the night.
Along with Porter, three Cavalier reserves combined for 51 points in Monday’s win. Those three brought most of the energy that fueled Cleveland’s fourth-quarter push.
Larry Nance Jr. continued his stellar play, finishing with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting, adding eight boards, two assists and a pair of steals. Nance spent much of his second-half minutes at the 3 as Cleveland went big down the stretch – brutalizing Miami’s smaller defenders in the post during the comeback.
Tristan Thompson again came off the bench with a purpose, adding 15 points, nine boards and three assists in 30 high-octane minutes of work.
Kevin Love doubled-up with 17 points and a game-high 14 boards, adding four assists and a pair of blocks. Love’s pass to a wide-open Porter gave Cleveland its final lead of the overtime session, with his own layup putting the Cavs up two possessions with 7.8 to play.
Darius Garland chipped in with 14 points to go with a team-high seven assists. Collin Sexton and Andre Drummond added 13 points apiece – with Sexton adding three boards and three assists and Drummond, six boards and a blocked shot.
Bam Adebayo led the Heat, playing once again without All-Star Jimmy Butler, in every category – finishing with 22 points, 13 boards, nine assists, three steals and four blocks.
Rookie Kevin Porter Jr. caught fire in the fourth quarter and scored eight straight Cavs points to give Cleveland a late game lead.
The listless Cavaliers started the fourth quarter down 19 points and it looked like Miami would sweep the four-game season series.
But they awoke with a vengeance in that final period – jumpstarted by Larry Nance Jr.- who scored six of the Cavaliers’ first ten points in the quarter.
Overall, the Wine & Gold would start the fourth period on a 19-3 run at which point Kevin Porter Jr. simply took over. At the 5:39 mark, Porter hit a 15-footer to get Cleveland to within three, 104-101. After a steal, he canned a step-back three-pointer to tie the affair, and on the next possession, the rookie from Southern Cal hit another triple to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the game.
The Heat would battle back to tie the game in regulation, but Cleveland had too much momentum by that point, pulling past Erik Spoelstra’s squad in overtime.
14.8, .486, .488 … Kevin Porter Jr.’s scoring average – along with his shooting percentage from the floor and long-range – over the last 10 games.
Over that stretch, the 19-year-old from Seattle has tallied double-figures eight times and recorded a steal in all but three outings.
Kevin Love, on Kevin Porter Jr. and the young Cavaliers’ growth …
"I think we were all proud of KP (Kevin Porter Jr.) after having a game where he got thrown out, another game where it was really tough for him on the road on a back-to-back, came out and had a career night for him. So that just shows you a ton of growth. Darius (Garland) made big plays down the stretch as well. So from our young fellas, it just was great for us when we decided to go big and mix it up in that fourth quarter and overtime. It was just a great showing.”
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and 87.7 La Mega's Rafa Hernandez-Brito.
The Cavaliers play six of their next seven at home – beginning with on Wednesday night when they welcome Joel Embiid (who dropped 49 points on the Hawks on Monday) and the Sixers to town.
Cleveland closes out the month with a weekend back-to-back – traveling to face Zion Williamson and the Pelicans on Friday night before hosting the Pacers on Saturday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Wine & Gold start the month of March with a four-game homestand – welcoming Utah, Boston, Denver and the Spurs to town.