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Wrap-Up – Procrastinating is as much a part of the holidays as candy canes and carols. And in the Cavaliers’ Christmas Day matchup in Miami, it was a case of too little, too late – as the Wine and Gold dug themselves a first half hole they couldn’t get out of. Cleveland took a very brief lead in the fourth quarter, but the Heat controlled most of the game en route to the frustrating 101-91 loss at AmericanAirlines Arena.
LeBron James, in his highly-publicized return to South Beach, led the Cavaliers with 30 points – going 9-of-16 from the floor with a team leading eight assists. But James, who admitted to having butterflies before the game, was 10-of-18 from the stripe, including 2-of-5 in the fourth quarter. LeBron battled his close friend, Dwyane Wade, all evening – with the Miami star posting 31 points of his own. The two longtime contemporaries and competitors took time to talk at the scorer’s table before the start of the second half and after the affair wrapped up.
Kyrie Irving followed up with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting, adding four boards, three assists and a steal. Kevin Love – who got the start at center with Anderson Varejao lost for the season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon – rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 14 points, going 5-for-14 from the floor to go with five boards, three assists and a block.
Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson were both solid off the bench. Waiters finished with eight points, six boards, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Thompson added six points and led both teams with nine boards in the loss.
The Heat scored 62 points in the first half and shot 56 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, one in which they held the Wine and Gold to just 17 points. Miami outscored Cleveland in the paint, 44-28, and on second-chance points, 16-2. The Cavs nearly doubled the Heat’s trips to the line, 33-17, but shot only 64 percent when they got there.
Turning Point – Going with a small lineup to close the third quarter, the Cavaliers – who once trailed by 17 – were able to get to within three heading into the fourth. To start the final quarter, Kyrie and LeBron scored back-to-back buckets to give Cleveland a 78-77 lead. But after tying the game at 80-apiece, the Cavs went cold and went six minutes without a field goal. Cleveland made one more late push, cutting the deficit to just three on Mike Miller’s trey with 3:09 remaining. But Miami went on an 11-3 run to put the game on ice.
By the Numbers – 347 … games in which LeBron James has topped the 30-point plateau in his career. Including his Christmas Day effort, James is averaging 29.0 points per game as a Cavalier against the Heat and has now notched a dozen 30-point games versus Miami. He also extended his consecutive streak of scoring in double-figures to 599 straight games – third in NBA history behind only Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Quotable – Coach David Blatt, on his squad’s loss in Miami …
”I thought in the beginning we were too much in a hurry and we didn’t play with the kind of discipline on defense we have been playing with. That hurt us. Our emotions were all over the place. But I don’t blame that on our loss.”
Up Next – With the Christmas Day game in the books, the Cavaliers complete their Sunshine State back-to-back on Friday night in Orlando as they take on the Magic. On Sunday afternoon, the Cavs take on the struggling Detroit Pistons for the first time this season in a 4:30 affair at The Q. On Tuesday night, it’s an early-season rubber match with the Hawks – who have lost by 33 points and won by 32 at The Q so far this season – down in Atlanta. The following day, it’s a New Year’s Eve matchup with the Greek Freak and his Milwaukee Bucks on the corner of Huron and Ontario.