CLEVELAND: LeBron James’ first-quarter scoring and fourth-quarter swats were just enough to beat his former team yet again.
James had 43 points, including an arena-record 25 in the first quarter, but the short-handed Cavs battled the Miami Heat until the final seconds before falling 100-96 on Tuesday.
The Cavs were playing without Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng, their top two leading scorers, yet entered the fourth quarter shooting 60 percent despite beginning the night as the league’s worst shooting team.
The Cavs shot 30 percent in the fourth quarter and James had two huge blocks in the final minute, rejecting Spencer Hawes’ dunk attempt with the Heat ahead 93-90. He came back to block Dion Waiters’ layup with the Heat ahead 95-90 and 28 seconds left, denying the Cavs any shot at overtime. Between those two blocks, Chris Bosh added one of his own on a Waiters drive as the Heat defense tightened after looking discombobulated much of the night.
The Cavs pushed the tempo and moved the ball well despite missing Irving and Deng. Irving is out two weeks with a strained tendon in his shoulder, while Deng was scratched with a sprained ankle he injured in Sunday’s loss at the Clippers.
Waiters was terrific in their absences, finishing with 17 points and 11 assists for a career high in assists and his first career double-double. He appeared to injure his hip on the shot blocked by James and watched the final seconds from the bench.
James was scorching hot in the first quarter, finishing 10-for-11. His only miss was a 3-pointer from about 27 feet away. His terrific start allowed the Heat to build a 14-point lead in the first quarter, but the Cavs kept fighting back.
A 17-3 run in the second allowed them to tie it at 40 and the game remained within six points the rest of the way.
The Cavs tied the game at 88 on a 3-pointer from Jarrett Jack with 3:43 remaining, but Bosh scored nine consecutive points to prevent the Heat from falling behind. He finished with 12 points in the fourth quarter, while James was credited with just one shot in the fourth quarter and three in the second half after his first-quarter eruption. He tied a franchise record with 31 points in the first half.
Jack had 22 points for the Cavs, Anderson Varejao had 16 points and 11 rebounds off the bench and Hawes had 11 points and nine rebounds from the Cavs, who placed all five starters in double figures. Alonzo Gee, the late starting replacement for Deng, had 12 points, three rebounds and a couple of assists.
Bosh had 21 for the Heat and Ray Allen had 14 off the bench, although he shot just 2-for-9 on 3-pointers. The Heat improved to 13-1 against the Cavs since James joined them.