After losing important games to several top-tier teams in the East over the past couple of weeks, including a 109-106 meltdown Thursday vs. the Charlotte Hornets, the Miami Heat needed a chance to prove themselves. They got that chance Saturday against the the best team in the conference. Facing the Cleveland Cavaliers at full health, the Heat pounded hard all game long to come away with a 122-101 domination at home.
The game got off to an energetic start with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James trading a couple of baskets early. Newly signed guard Joe Johnson, who was heavily pursued by the Cavaliers, led the Heat with seven points. With strong defense from rookie Josh Richardson on All-Star Kyrie Irving, the Heat closed the quarter on a 13-4 run to lead 31-19 after one.
After going down by 15, the Cavs turned the notch up in the second quarter. Kevin Love and James fueled an 11-0 run but the Heat would counter.
Richardson, who's had the best 3-point percentage since All-Star break, drilled his fourth three-pointer in the second quarter to help initiate a massive run. Helped by Wade and Goran Dragic, the Heat closed the quarter on a 25-8 run to go up 65-44 at halftime, tying the team's highest-scoring first half of the season. Dragic led the Heat with 14 points and seven assists while James had 18 for the Cavaliers.
Wade started the second half with a couple of buckets, including a special one that put him in the 20,000 point club, to strengthen Miami's hold of the game. Continuing to dominate, the 41st member of the 20k club went on to score 14 points in the quarter. Johnson chipped in with eight points and the Heat posted their third straight 30+ point quarter of the game to head into the fourth with a mammoth 98-70 lead.
The Heat would go on to rule from there as the Cavs, who were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, hoisted the white flag on a 122-101 blowout.
James, who remains winless in Miami, led the Cavs with 26 points on 13-20 shooting but got very little help elsewhere. Irving had just 14 points and Love was held to just seven points and one rebound, far from their usual All-Star production. 15-year veteran Richard Jefferson poured in 20 points off the bench, most of which that came in during garbage time.
Wade, who has scored all 20k career points in a Heat jersey, led the way with 24 points on 10-17 shooting and, unlike James, had a plethora of help tonight. Dragic continued his resurgent post All-Star stretch with 18 points and 11 assists. Budding rookie Richardson added 19 points and Whiteside 16 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. Johnson, who is helping the Heat right where they need it, contributed 18 points on 4-6 shooting from downtown.
Miami's 122 points on 54% shooting was the team's 10th straight game scoring over 100 points. The Heat not only had a better field goal percentage than the Cavs but out-rebounded them (42-26) and had 10 more assists (27). For a team that struggled heavily with their shooting earlier, the Heat connected on 11-19 of their triples tonight and made 19-23 free-throws. The Heat lead the season series against the Cavs, 2-1.
The Heat will be back in action Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans at 8:00 P.M.