Miami Heat (7-16) 84
Cleveland Cavaliers (16-5) 114
The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Friday evening’s matchup with the Miami Heat shorthanded with JR Smith (injury) and Channing Frye (excused absence) both out and Kevin Love was listed as a game-time decision. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Love was able to go.
Kevin Love exploded for a huge game all around, as he, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving all scored 20+ points for the third game in a row. This was the first time three Cavaliers teammates achieved this since 1972 and the first time any teammates accomplished this in the NBA since LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh did it in 2011.
The Heat were able to keep this game fairly close for a while in the first half, but the Cavaliers were able to open an 11 point lead at halftime. In the second half, the Cavaliers opened up a huge lead as they ran away with the game. With a follow-up game against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, the Cavs were able to get some rest for their starters in the 4th quarter. On a shorthanded night like this, the game played out the best way possible for Cleveland.
Speaking of shorthanded, the Miami Heat might scoff at the notion that the Cavaliers were the shorthanded team. The Heat were without Dion Waiters, Justice Winslow, James Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Luke Babbitt with injuries while Udonis Haslem missed the game with an excused absence to watch his son’s high school football playoff game back in Florida. Making matters even worse, Hassan Whiteside also suffered an injury in this game, though he was able to still play 28 minutes.
Injuries aside, this is a Heat team going through a transition phase in the post-Big Three era and the Cavaliers were able to do what they needed to do to make this game a relatively easy affair, allowing themselves to conserve as much as possible for Saturday’s game. All in all, a solid night at the office for the Cavaliers.
Now let’s look at the numbers.
- 28 and 15 – Kevin Love led all scorers in this game with 28 points, adding 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal to go with it. This was one of Love’s best all-around games of the season. And that’s saying something considering the season Love is having. In this game, Love did a beautiful job of scoring from all over the floor, masterfully mixing both inside and outside scoring. Love had 7 second-chance points, 10 points in the paint, and 9 points from three-point range, equating to a blistering offensive rating of 131.7. Love was a monster on the boards as well, and his defensive rating of 94.9 was second only to LeBron (94.6) among the starters. Kevin has had plenty of games where he shot well from outside or where he made his mark on the boards, but this game he left his imprint on all aspects of the game.
- 36.4% – Miami Heat PG Goran Dragic has had some success against the Cavaliers in the past, but in this game, he had a meager 15 points on just 36.4 percent shooting from the floor. 5 of Dragic’s 15 points came from the FT line as he really struggled to find his offense. With JR Smith still out with the knee injury, DeAndre Liggins stepped into the starting lineup once more and again continues to impress with his defensive energy. Liggins frustrated Dragic all night long making things uncomfortable as possible for the PG. Obviously, when JR returns Liggins will move back to the bench, but Liggins appears to be carving a role for himself on this team and he provides a luxury when paired with Kyrie as he allows Kyrie to shift off the PG on defense.
- 19 to 6 – The Cavaliers had 19 fastbreak points to just 6 for the Heat. At halftime, the Cavaliers had just 5 fastbreak points. Coming out of the halftime break, Cavaliers assistant coach Larry Drew told Fox Sports reporter Allie Clifton that the coaches implored the Cavs to get out and start running more on the break. The message clearly clicked as the Cavs had 10 fastbreak points in the 3rd quarter alone. The easy transition baskets were the catalyst in allowing Cleveland to open up a big lead which set up the starters to be able to rest for most of the 4th quarter.
- 27 and 23 – LeBron James and Kyrie Irving had 27 points and 23 points, respectively. As previously mentioned, the Big Three for the Cavaliers each had 20+ points for the third consecutive game now. LeBron moved past Elvin Hayes for 9th on the all-time NBA scoring list. The Cavaliers are not a team without their flaws, but when LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin are playing the way they are right now, they can cover up for a lot of those flaws.
- 29 – We’ve talked about the issues with the lack of depth on the bench for the Cavaliers recently, and with injuries and Channing Frye’s absence, those issues might be a little magnified. But credit to the Cavs’ bench in this game for stepping up with 29 points. Some of these points came from extended playing time in the fourth quarter as the starters rested, but regardless, the bench unit chipped in with 29 points. Iman Shumpert led the bench with 10 points as he continues to shoot the ball well from outside. Cavs rookie Kay Felder was able to score 6 points in his 4.5 minutes to get some much-needed confidence boost.
- 17 – The Miami Heat were led in scoring by Derrick Williams off the bench with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Obviously, Williams is remembered by Cavs fans as the guy who was competing with Kyrie Irving for the Cavs’ top overall pick in the 2011 draft. Williams hasn’t exactly lived up to his pre-draft hype, but he has found a decent role for himself as a solid bench player in this league. On a night when few Heat players were able to do anything impressive, credit goes to Williams for putting in a nice game.
Back-to-backs are never fun in the NBA, but they certainly are a lot better when a team can get a blowout win on the first night to get some rest in the 4th quarter. The Charlotte Hornets (14-9) secured a 109-88 win at home against the Orlando Magic Friday night and will travel to Cleveland for Saturday’s matchup with the Cavs. Cleveland seems to have overcome their little three-game hiccup with two straight impressive performances. They’ll look to try to keep that momentum going against a solid team that currently sits third in the Eastern Conference.