MIAMI: The Cavs didn’t have to worry about LeBron James on Tuesday, but Chris Bosh did enough damage for both of them.
Bosh had 35 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and the Miami Heat handed the Cavs their fourth consecutive loss with a 92-85 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena. This one, however, looked much better than the last two.
The Cavs competed until the end, pulling within three in the final minute on a 3-pointer by Kyrie Irving. That was much better than the final minute of the last two games, which the Cavs lost to the Bulls and Hawks by a combined 66 points.
“That was more like us as a basketball team,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “Good, solid defense, stayed in the game for 48 minutes.”
The Heat (12-5) struggled to shake the pesky Cavs (6-10). But Bosh scored nine points in the final 2:36 to give the Heat their fourth win in their last five games.
James struggled against his old team despite rarely seeing double teams, shooting just 8-of-21 on mostly long jumpers for 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. He was defended most of the night by Anthony Parker and Alonzo Gee, who rarely let him get to the basket for easy drives and dunks.
“That’s a matchup nightmare for a lot of guys, but I thought our guys came out aggressive,” Scott said. “AP knows him pretty well from playing with him and I thought Zo’s athleticism and quickness was something [James] had to deal with.”
The Heat were again without Dwyane Wade, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Yet even with one of the Big Three sidelined, Scott chose to rarely double James and let Parker and Gee go at him alone.
“He’s a great player and he’s going to get points, but we didn’t want to give him the breakaways and easy layups at the basket,” Parker said. “The positive thing about it is we competed and played better. We’re not satisfied coming out with a loss, but after the last couple games we played, we competed tonight and stayed in it and fought and that was positive.”
Irving had 17 points and four assists and four rebounds for the Cavs. Samardo Samuels, playing in place of the injured Tristan Thompson (sprained ankle), had 15 points off the bench.
This version of James vs. the Cavs didn’t come with nearly the intensity of last season’s meetings. Even the final meeting of last season, which resulted in a Cavs win, was highlighted by perhaps Ryan Hollins’ best game of the season when he was physical with James and knocked him to the floor on more than one occasion to the delight of Cavs fans.
Hollins was a nonfactor on Tuesday. Between his athleticism and Thompson’s injury, he should’ve received big rotation minutes. Scott kept Semih Erden out of the rotation for one night because he thought the Heat were just too athletic, but Hollins committed four fouls in five minutes in the first half and was barely heard from again.
The entire evening lacked the buzz of last season’s matchups, something that will likely continue the more they meet.
“After a year of going through it,” Scott said, “I think it’s just like any other basketball game right now.”
With Wade sidelined and James struggling, the Heat left the game in Bosh’s hands. He hit a big 3-pointer, converted on a three-point play and went 14-of-14 from the free-throw line (6-of-6 in the final three minutes).
The Cavs again struggled holding on to the ball, committing 22 turnovers. They fired the ball around the court — and into the stands — most of the night. It was the seventh time in 16 games they had more than 20 turnovers.
“The only thing I’m disappointed in is the turnovers again,” Scott said. “That’s killing our young team. It’s hard to overcome those types of mistakes when you’re playing against great basketball teams. We have to get better at taking care of the basketball and treating it a little better than we’ve been treating it lately.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.