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For the first three-and-a-half quarters at the HSBC Center in Rio de Janeiro, the focus was on the celebration of Anderson Varejao’s return to Brazil, LeBron James’ first matchup against his former team and the celebration of NBA hoops on an international level. Then things got serious.
With the Cavs starters taking the rest of the night off after having helped build a 19-point lead, Miami mounted a furious comeback to close out the fourth quarter on a 29-10 run to tie the game at 105-apiece and send the preseason contest into overtime.
The Heat took their first lead of the game in that extra-session when Shabazz Napier opened the scoring with a driving layup . But reserve point guard A.J. Price canned a trio of three-pointers in overtime and another reserve, Stephen Holt, drilled a trey with 39.4 to play that gave the Cavaliers back the lead for good. Joe Harris sunk a pair of free throws with 13.2 remaining to seal the 122-119 victory.
Before the late drama, Cleveland’s starters were impressive on both ends of the floor.
The Cavaliers led by six after one quarter and upped their edge to 15 at intermission. Miami cut Cleveland’s lead to seven early in the fourth quarter, but three-pointers from Joe Harris and James Jones extended the Cavs’ lead back to double-digits before the Heat reserves went to work.
Much had been made, rightfully so, about Cleveland’s offseason bounty. And newcomer, Kevin Love, did lead the Wine and Gold with 25 points – going 9-for-12 from the floor, including 4-for-5 from long-distance. But it was the returning Cavaliers – namely Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson – who did much of the heavy lifting in Saturday’s white-knuckle win.
Saturday’s game started the way it had to – with the local hero, Varejao, taking a bounce pass from LeBron James and canning a 17-footer from just right of the foul line – sending the crowd at the HSBC Arena in Rio into an early frenzy. Minutes later, James tapped a touch-pass off a rebound to Varejao, who scored on a layup.
Andy finished the first quarter with a team-leading eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and would go on to score 12 of his 14 points in the first half. After the starters gave way to the reserves in the second stanza, Varejao made a pair of curtain calls while the crowd chanted his name.
Overall, the arena – which had sold out three hours after announcing ticket sales – was about 50 percent Heat, 50 percent Cavaliers and 100 percent Varejao.
Tristan Thompson came off Cleveland’s bench on a mission – netting 18 points, nine boards and a game-high three steals.
Waiters followed up with 16 points, going 7-of-12 from the floor to go with three boards, three assists and team-high two blocked shots – including a swat of Dwyane Wade’s layup attempt at the end of the first half.
LeBron James didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the win – going just 2-for-8 from the floor – but by the midway point of the third quarter, had as many assists as the entire Heat squad.
Matthew Dellavedova got the start in place of Kyrie Irving, who tweaked his ankle in practice on Friday. In 33 minutes, Delly notched three points, six boards and four helpers.
After five days in Rio, the Wine and Gold get back stateside on Sunday morning. But they have a busy week ahead of them upon their return. The Cavs welcome Milwaukee to The Q on Tuesday night and head to Cincinnati on Wednesday to face the Pacers before Dallas comes to Cleveland for a Friday night affair.