MIAMI: The Cavs return home from this Florida trip 1-1, but the lessons they learned far outweigh the record. This team is starting to figure out how to play together, how to play on the road and they’re even starting to see they can take the league’s best team to the final minutes.
The Cavs lost to the Miami Heat 114-107 on Saturday, their ninth consecutive loss to the Heat. But they rallied from a 19-point deficit early in the third quarter to take a 95-91 lead midway through the fourth quarter before the Heat took over during a six-minute stretch that sealed the victory.
From the time Dion Waiters’ drive and basket gave the Cavs the four-point lead and forced the Heat to call a timeout with 7:24 left, the Heat outscored the Cavs 14-6, capped by a 3-pointer from Mario Chalmers with 1:36 left to give the Heat a 109-101 lead.
Until then, the Cavs’ defense in the second half was terrific. They held the Heat’s Big Three to a total of five points in the third quarter and limited one of the league’s most potent offenses to 33 percent shooting in the quarter.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh crushed the Cavs in the first half, but the defense turned the Heat into jump shooters for most of the third quarter and half of the fourth before the Heat finally started attacking late.
Kyrie Irving had 19 points, Tristan Thompson had 16 points and seven rebounds and Waiters had 16 points off the bench for the Cavs. Jarrett Jack had 14 points and Earl Clark had 12. The Cavs had six players reach double figures in scoring and received 53 points from their bench.
Mike Brown was ejected with 3:14 left in the first half after Shane Battier caught Alonzo Gee on a chase down block. Brown clearly thought it was a foul and walked one-third of the way onto the court pointing and hollering at official Sean Wright.
Wright quickly gave Brown two technical fouls and sent him on his way, but not before an irate Brown got in a few more words before Irving wrapped him up and settled him down. Lead assistant Jim Boylan took over the coaching duties the rest of the night.
The Cavs trailed 55-45 when Brown was ejected, but the Heat closed the half by outscoring the Cavs 13-7 to take a 68-52 lead into the half. More importantly, the Heat had 18 free throws at the half compared to just eight for the Cavs. By the end of the game, the free throws were much tighter (30-25).
James had 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, Wade had 24 points and Bosh had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat.