The shorthanded Cavs, drew first blood against the Heat, though Miami wasn’t very far behind with a McGruder three. Miami demonstrated positives from the very beginning, showcasing an explosive and confident Josh Richardson as well as a ferocious James Johnson.
Cleveland’s defense was weak against Miami as scored six of their first nine points in the paint. Additionally, Cleveland leaned heavily on Kevin Love for the brunt of their offensive attack, though Frye and Smith contributed as well. The Cavs did not attack the paint whatsoever, instead choosing to run their offense from behind the arc. Unfortunately for Miami, they were very effective.
With four minutes left in the quarter, Miami’s defense was abysmal as Deron Williams feasted off jump shots. This allowed the Cavs to take a 10 point lead. Miami had a few good plays as the quarter came to a close, but Cleveland did not slow down. The Heat looked lethargic and nervous and as a result fell behind by thirteen.
Entering the second quarter, the Heat’s scoring drought continued while Cleveland continued their offensive assault. Miami just seemed to make very questionable decisions on the offensive end, thankfully they’d clean that up as the quarter progressed cutting the deficit to ten. Miami would get into foul trouble, allowing Cleveland to get into the bonus with more than 7 minutes in the quarter. This caused Cleveland to attack the paint and continue to pad their lead from the free throw line.
The Heat looked confused and hesitant, the polar opposite of recent matches against Washington and Charlotte. There was absolutely no flow to the game on either end and Deron Williams continued to light up the Heat. The Heat found their rhythm towards the end of the first half with great shots by Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder pulling them back within two. Josh Richardson would cause a goal tend headed into halftime and as a result the deficit was 4. Regardless the majority of Miami’s first half effort was forgettable at best.
Miami started the third quarter with exceptional defense, however they once again had trouble scoring. It’s in these scoring droughts that Dion Waiters’ ability to seemingly score at will is sorely missed. Though they had seemed to move past their terrible decision making from the first half, the Heat were right back at it again in the third. It gets frustrating, especially knowing they could do better.
Nothing seemed to be working for the Heat, and Cleveland continued to chug along. Every time it looked like the Heat had an opportunity to make up ground, they’d get shut down by a Cleveland score on the other end. As the quarter came to a close Cleveland would hit Miami with a barrage of threes courtesy of Channing Frye and Kyle Korver. When Cleveland drove the lane, one thing that was very noticeable was that no Heat players came into help their teammate and as a result Cleveland was able to convert on many baskets. Ellington would hit a half court shot headed into the fourth, that wouldn’t count.
James Johnson would come out rolling to start the fourth, and a Josh Richardson steal and slam would bring Miami within 4. Cleveland however, wouldn’t go down without a fight, scoring five in a row to stay afloat. Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson would tie the game for the Heat, and James Johnson would later give Miami their first lead. The Heat were surging, finally playing in a good offensive rhythm and wouldn’t slow down. Wayne Ellington also came on at the best time for Miami hitting multiple key threes.
Despite their great play Miami wouldn’t be without mistakes, turning the ball over and fouling at the wrong times. With just under three minutes to go the Heat would struggle to score, and Cleveland would tie the game up and later go up by two. Luckily, Dragic would tie the game up for the Heat, but once again an offensive foul would be called on James Johnson. Johnson would steal the ball on the subsequent play, but wouldn’t get a shot off and so the game would head to overtime.
Tyler Johnson would open overtime with a driving bucket, and to follow that up Whiteside would add to the Miami lead with a bucket of his own. Put simply, the Heat were surging again ruled by hunger and heart. Cleveland however, would fight back with Korver and Love delivering on huge threes and bringing the game within one. On Love’s fifth foul Whiteside would hit both of his free throws giving Miami a three point lead with 1:42 to go. Miami and Cleveland would go back and forth, until Deron Williams hit a three while James Johnson fouled him. James Johnson would foul out with the Heat down one and 34 seconds to go.
In a must score situation Tyler Johnson slashed to the rim and was fouled hard by Kevin Love, he’d hit both giving Miami a one point lead and Love would foul out. The Heat were in position to grab a huge rebound and Johnson would once again be fouled and hit both free throws again to give Miami a three point victory.
This was an incredible win for Miami. To start so terribly and bring it back the way they did is unfathomable. I’m thoroughly impressed and proud of this team.