The defending NBA champion Miami Heat came to Cleveland Tuesday night to face a Cavaliers team missing its top two scorers in Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng. Needless to say, things did not go well. The Heat scored quickly on Mario Chalmers three that Jarrett Jack didn’t really attempt to defend, and it was all downhill from there. Miami quickly built a 17-5 lead just five minutes into the first quarter. LeBron James was on fire in his return home, scoring 25 points in the first quarter on 10-11 shooting (5-6 from three) as the Heat built at twelve point lead at the end of the first quarter. The Cavaliers battled back in the second however, and took the lead several times behind the play of their big men and some great team basketball. Throughout the second quarter they moved the ball well on offense and communicated on defense.
Unfortunately some poor free throw shooting and a couple of costly turnovers gave the Heat a 59-54 lead at the half.
Although the third quarter was somewhat sloppier for the Cavaliers, they kept up their effort and continued to share the ball well. Tristan Thompson woke up joined Spencer Hawes and Anderson Varejao in punishing the Heat big men. The score was deadlocked at 79 as we entered the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers took an early lead, before they went cold on offense. They continued to move the ball, but the shots stopped falling. With the game tied at 88, Chris Bosh scored five quick points for the Heat, and the Cavaliers were never quite able to catch up, falling to Miami 100-96 in a valiant effort.
PG Jarrett Jack – After some lethargic defense to start the game, Jack had a tremendous first half with 13 points on 5-7 shooting. He kept the ball moving and stayed away from the poor shots that have been a big part of his game this season. Although he cooled off somewhat in the second half, Jack hit a pair of threes late to give the Cavaliers a chance at the end. This was one of his best games of the season.
SG Dion Waiters- Waiters had a rough first half shooting, going 3-9 from the floor for 10 points, but kept the ball moving with seven assists. Although he did not shoot well, most of his shots were within the flow of the offense, and Greg Oden blocked two of his attempts at the rim. His rough shooting continued in the second half, but he got to the line enough to finish with 17 points and 11 assists, earning his first career double-double. Waiters also played some of his best defense of the year, and was absolutely mugged by Udonis Haslem on a drive to the rim late in the game. Not only was there no call, but Waiters appeared to hurt his hip on the play. Hopefully it is nothing serious.
SF Alonzo Gee – Despite being absolutely torched by LeBron James in the first half, Gee did a nice job of playing within himself. He finished with 12 points on 5-11 shooting and his energy as Deng’s replacement was evident throughout.
PF Tristan Thompson – Thompson had a slow start, but came alive in the third quarter to help the Cavaliers stay in the game. He also played fairly decent defense on Chris Bosh when matched against the All-Star, but Mike Brown went with Hawes and Varejao down the stretch though as they were much hotter offensively. Thompson is a solid player, but he tends to either look spectacular or completely disappear.
C Spencer Hawes – Hawes continued his solid play since joining the Cavaliers with another nice game tonight. The big man had 11 points, nine rebounds, and three assists, and continued to do a good job spacing the offense despite finishing 0-3 from deep. His fit with fellow big men Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, and Thompson has become a big plus for the Cavaliers.
Anderson Varejao had his way against the Heat for much of the night. The heart of the team had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and three steals in just 26 minutes, and the Cavaliers outscored the Heat by seven points during Andy’s time in the game.
Mike Brown was obviously disappointed with the loss, but praised his team’s effort and pointed out several positive individual efforts. He was disappointed with the turnovers and danced around the officials’ no-call during Waiters’ drive to the basket at the end of the game. In the end, this loss seemed to be especially difficult for Coach Brown to swallow.
The Cavaliers continue their murderous March on Thursday when the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town. Hopefully Waiters is okay and Deng can return then. If the Cavaliers play like they did tonight, anything is possible.