It was LeBron James and the Cavs who would set the tone early, with a LeBron drive and Love three. Still, the Heat weren’t helpless offensively with Hassan Whiteside picking up the slack and scoring in the paint. Unfortunately, the Heat were pathetic on the defensive end allowing Kevin Love to feast from three point line and creating a Cavs’ 9-0 run.
James Johnson brought immediate energy off the bench with a three, and Miami regained their composure somewhat. Dion Waiters also scored well, as he worked to chip away at the Cavs’ lead. Unfortunately, the Heat still didn’t have an answer for Kevin Love and he continued to throttle Miami (he had 19 points with 5 minutes left in the first).
The Cavs continued their assault, with our old friend Dwyane Wade even doing some damage. On a positive note, the Heat would end the quarter on a 7-0 run and pull themselves within 11…also Tyler Johnson had a great rejection on DWade.
The second quarter began with a Bam Adebayo highlight tape as he grabbed rebounds, blocked shots and seemed to want to murder the rim with dunks. His hustle is admirable. Miami looked a lot better as they pulled within six points.
The Cavs weren’t done, however. Their second unit led by Wade, continued to be successful on offense and kept Cleveland in the lead. Cleveland would later insert their starters and the Heat would suffer with LeBron and Kevin Love continuing to do work.
It’s like Miami’s defense and offense suddenly shriveled up as they went down by 24 points. Whiteside had absolutely no answer for Kevin Love. His defensive effort at that point was abysmal. As the half wound down, the Heat would find some life, offering at least some hope for the second half.
The Heat looked a little bit better to start the third quarter, but the Cavs continued to role extending their lead to 33 points. While Miami would have their fair share of good plays, the deficit was huge.
Still, Miami continued to compete, even going on an 17-3 scoring run midway through the quarter. Dion Waiters continued to probe and score consistently, and Dragic was also able to get it going somewhat. Also, it looked like Josh Richardson has finally started breaking out of his shooting slump as he hit a couple threes and converted in traffic multiple times.
With 2:00 minutes left in the third LeBron would get teed up with 2 technical fouls and ejected. The techs came after a no call, and LeBron lost it and proceeded to swear at the official.
The Heat would head into the fourth and final quarter down 19, but with a strong pulse.
It was DWade who would pick up the scoring slack with LeBron gone, scoring six straight. Though LeBron-less, the Cavs were very much alive as they scored consistently on Miami’s second unit. It looked like the Heat were out of this one, and it gave Spoelstra the opportunity to give Bam more run and experiment with players in different positions. For example, Olynyk would see time at power forward.
Udonis Haslem would also see time in the final minutes giving him the opportunity to play against Wade. The Heat did manage to pull back within by 15, but by that point their minds were clearly on New York.
I felt like Miami still had room to compete in the fourth quarter. Even with their second unit in, Bam was still fighting and they were pulling back within striking distance. This of course wasn’t a good game for Miami by any means, but there were at least a few positives (i.e Bam and JRich’s stellar play). Hopefully the Heat are better tomorrow night in NYC.