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LeBron scores 36 as Cavs hand Heat 4th straight loss

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If it seemed any more scripted, I'd swear that it was.  Miami held their own for 3 quarters but ultimately ran out of gas against a team that was much deeper with talent, and it showed.  Miami fell to 0-3 against the Cavs this season, with last night's loss being the worse of the three.  The only way these teams will meet again is in the playoffs, and there is a pretty decent chance of that happening. 

Cleveland will definitely finish in the top 3 in the east, very possibly as the 1 seed, and assuming the Heat hold on to make the playoffs, they will fall somewhere in the 5-8 area.  Toronto is in 5th right now and has been getting better and better as the season has gone on.  Unless they are struck by the injury bug, I expect the Raptors to put a vice grip on the 5 seed, leaving 6th 7th and 8th place to be fought over by likes of Miami, Chicago, Charlotte and Milwaukee.  Really, every team in the east other then the Nets have a chance to get hot and sneak into the playoff picture. 

Cleveland stormed out to a very quick 8-2 lead in the games first 2 minutes, and coming out of the ensuing timeout I got very annoyed because the play drawn up was for a Quentin Richardson 3-pointer.  The way this team has been shooting three's (taking too many and not hitting enough) there shouldn't be any kind of encouragement going on when it comes to taking those shots. 

As expected, the Heat kept pace with Cleveland for most of the quarter while still looking a half-step behind.  The surprise for Miami was Joel Anthony.  He came in the game early when Jermaine O'Neal was called for 2 quick fouls and was quite productive.  Joel led the Heat in scoring with 8 points and added 6 rebounds (5 offensive) in his first 6 minutes. 

A 10-2 run that spanned between the end of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd put the Heat up by 2.  The quarter was pretty back and forth until the end, where the Cavs starting pulling away.  A LeBron runner put them up 7 with under a minute left, but then D-Wade hit a trey and was able to throw down a very nice dunk to close the gap back up heading into the half. 

Just like the last time these teams played, it was Wade and LeBron scoring like crazy in the 1st half.  James led all players with 19 points and D-Wade was right behind him with 18.  Unfortunately for Wade, he would come out ice cold in the 3rd quarter...but so did the rest of the team. 

Miami came out shooting 3-for-14 in the 3rd, but eventually got their offense going towards the end of the quarter.  It was mostly thanks to Jermaine O'Neal, who played just 4 scoreless minutes in the entire 1st half.  J-O hit 5-of-7 in the 3rd quarter, scoring 12 points.  D-Wade on the other hand put up a big goose egg, shooting 0-for-7 in the 3rd

Miami started the 4th pretty poorly, with a turnover leading to Udonis Haslem fouling LeBron, who had a clear path to the basket.  He'd get two free throws (which he made) and the Cavs kept the ball, which led to a LeBron jumper to put Cleveland up 12.  It's really hard to win a game when you go into the 4th quarter trailing and then get outscored 7-0 when the quarter begins. 

It wasn't until there was 7:18 left in the game when Dwyane Wade hit his first field goal of the 2nd half.  It was just really bad timing; the 2nd night of a back-to-back, both games on the road and playing two of the best teams in the league...its no big shocker that the Heat got smoked on consecutive nights. 

I know most of you are probably very frustrated but you have to keep things in perspective.  This team is Dwyane Wade, a very young Michael Beasley and not much else.  If the supporting cast is struggling, there isn't much that will keep this team afloat.  At this point, all we can do is hope that our secondary guys get their crap together in time to make a playoff run because right now the Heat are in danger of falling out of the top 8 for the first time since their 15-win season a couple years ago. 

GAME NOTES

  • Free throws: Cleveland- 29-of-36.  Miami- 10-of-14.  No team can expect to win with numbers like that. 
  • Sticking with free throws for a second, I just want to compare superstars.  LeBron went 17-of-21 and Dwyane Wade went 1-of-2.  So King James singlehandedly outperformed the Heat at the foul line. Wade....basically non-existent. 
  • Both James and Wade played significant minutes at point guard.
  • Welcome back, Michael Beasley.  He had his first good game in what feels like a long time.  He started it off by hitting his first 5 shots and finished with 21 points, 12 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.  It was his 9th double double of the season.
  • Quentin Richardson went 0-for-7 from the field, and I particularly remember him missing a point-blank layup when the Heat were attempting a comeback in the 2nd half. 
  • Cleveland moved to 30-1 when scoring at least 100 points...but what was the deal with their ‘throwback' jerseys?  A little too close to Knicks's road jerseys for my liking...
  • Again, just want to give props to Joel Anthony.  He was plucked off the bench early when J-O got into foul trouble and responded with 8 points and 6 boards in only eight 1st quarter minutes. 
  • Udonis Haslem passed current Heat assistant coach Keith Askins on the all-time appearance list last night, playing in his 487th game.  Udonis is now 2nd on the list, trailing Alonzo Mourning.  

One thing that I've been noticing more of lately is the use of Dwyane Wade at the point.  Despite being the Heat's starting shooting guard, Wade is the best point guard on our roster.  When you have an offense that is as fragile as the Heat's, it is very beneficial to have their best player handling the ball as much as possible. 

Yes, Rafer has been a step up from Chalmers and Arroyo, but none of those players have been good enough.  If Alston could start hitting shots then we would be in business, but for now the Heat might be better off playing Wade at the point and utilizing Dorell and Quentin Richardson as the 2 and 3.  At this point, the Heat don't have much to lose so shaking things up in this way may not be a bad idea. 

Of course, I have no idea how D-Wade feels about playing extended minutes at the point.  Assuming that he is cool with the idea, I think it's definitely worth a shot to see how things go.  I'm sure the idea will be something that Erik Spoelstra throws around between now and when the Heat plays in Chicago on Saturday night.