Going into the 2012 NBA Draft, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim compared Dion Waiters’ explosive style of play to Dwyane Wade’s. The current Miami Heat (40-14) superstar didn’t exactly explode onto the scene, but he did have an admirable rookie season comparable to what Waiters has accomplished thus far. Although Waiters did outplay Wade from an offensive and defensive standpoint for most of the night, experience became key in the final period.
Wade went into the fourth quarter with just nine points, while Waiters had a team-high 18 points. Although last year’s No. 4 overall pick finished off the game with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, Wade totaled 15 points in leading his team in a comeback effort in the fourth. After being outscored by 19 points in the third quarter, the Chicago native elevated his game and had Waiters running circles around the court trying to defend the All-Star starter.
Minute mistakes and lockdown defense prevented the Cleveland Cavaliers (18-38) from making a full comeback after being down by more than 20 points in the contest, as the Heat won in a close match against the Cavs for the second time this season in Miami by a score of 109-105.
LeBron James and an early three-point attack from the Heat resulted in a quick 13-point lead to open up the first 12 minutes of play. The former Cavalier threw down a ferocious dunk to get the party started and was a frequent visitor in the paint all night long. James finished 10-of-19 from the field, along with totaling 28 points and eight assists.
The level of teammate awareness shown by Wade and James was a primary reason that the Heat were able to find success throughout the game from beyond the arc. Out of their 12 converted three-point attempts, 11 of them came off of assists. Wade and James played an integral part in spreading the ball around on offense, as the two combined for 14 of the team’s 23 dimes. The Cavaliers were unable to keep track of Miami’s sharpshooters off the bench, as Ray Allen and Shane Battier combined for 7-of-10 from three-point land.
While Miami was busy distributing the ball in the first half, Alonzo Gee was struggling with limiting James. We knew going into the game that Gee wasn’t going to be able to stop James completely, but there were too many instances in which James was given uncontested shots in the paint. Off-the-ball defense is extremely important when guarding LeBron, and Gee simply didn’t get the memo on Sunday.
The seven turnovers that the Cavaliers had to start off the game also didn’t help in slowing down the best transition team in the game. Miami scored 14 points off of Cleveland’s first seven mistakes.
It also didn’t help that the Cleveland bench didn’t start to get things going until late in the third quarter. The Cavalier reserves were only outscored by five points in the first half, but how long would you want Luke Walton covering LeBron? In a game where mismatches were already tough enough to overcome, Byron Scott didn’t do his best job when game planning for his lineups.
But certain players can get hot, and luckily for Scott C.J. Miles did when his team needed him the most. After cutting the Miami lead to 10 points with just under two minutes to go in the third frame, Miles hit three huge shots in a row: all of them three pointers. On his final make of the quarter, he was fouled on a call that James argued until he received a technical foul. Miles converted both attempts from the line, putting his team up by one going into the final quarter. He finished the game with 19 points off the bench.
Afterward is when Wade became Mr. Fourth Quarter and Kyrie Irving went missing. After a 10-point third quarter, Irving only managed to score two points at a crucial time in the game. The Miami guards hounded Irving to their best ability, as he finished with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field.
Wade’s 15th point in the fourth quarter came at the most critical spot in the game. With his team up by two points and under 30 seconds left on the clock, Wade rode a nice pick and took off in the paint for an emphatic dunk. That dunk pretty much sealed the deal and completely stalled any momentum that Cleveland had built up going into the final moments of the game.
However, the Cavaliers fought, and it was an exciting match to watch. One day Cleveland will be able to finish against a team like Miami, but that time is still yet to come. The Cavaliers will be at it again on Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls at 8 p.m.