35 for No. 31: Cavs-Heat, Behind the Box Score

Miami Heat 124
Cleveland Cavaliers 121
[Box Score]

Following an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, the Cavaliers’ second loss in a row, Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue opted to sit both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in addition to the injured Tristan Thompson, effectively throwing in the towel on trying to get the No. 1 seed in the East. Lue had long said that health was more important than seeding, and after the Cavs coughed up a 26-point lead in Atlanta, it appeared that they would no longer risk its stars playing in overtime contests (Sunday was their second such a contest in one week’s time). In their place, the Cavaliers would start Deron Williams, Channing Frye, and Iman Shumpert. The two guards had seen their minutes take a substantial hit over the last few weeks, yet would be called upon to play substantial ones on the second night of a back-to-back.

As the Cavaliers have struggled mightily over the last two seasons in games played without James, the result was a painfully habitual version of the inevitable as the Wine and Gold blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead, ultimately losing in overtime.

Williams, after having his minutes cut to single digits in Sunday’s overtime loss, put up a season-high 35 points, nearly recording a triple-double with seven assists and nine rebounds. The issue, however, is that it would’ve been a quadruple-double as he also had 10 turnovers.

Miami’s Tyler Johnson came off the bench and dropped a team-high 24 points while Hassan Whiteside did his thing against the short-handed front court, tallying 23 points and 18 rebounds.

Nevertheless, while frustrated with the last two games, Lue appears to be at peace with this loss, focusing on the effort of guys who normally do not get to play.

“I thought the effort was great,” said Lue. “It was unbelievable. Still made some mistakes defensively down the stretch that hurt us. Offensively, execution hurt us—not running the plays right. Those are things we have to continue to work on heading into the playoffs.”

8:00 — After leading through much of the contest by double-digits, it took just four minutes in the fourth quarter for it all to evaporate as the Heat took the lead with eight minutes left in the game. The Cavaliers would give them a run for their money, forcing overtime and such, but this was simply another game that should have been won, even without three of the starting five.

25 and 10 — Kevin Love’s line in this one was very Minnesota, all the way down to the eventual loss. If anything, it was good to see him be able to log 36 minutes and play effectively throughout before fouling out in the overtime period as he attempted to block a shot after J.R. Smith blew his defensive assignment at the top of the key. (It was a rough night all around for Smith.)

63.6 — Deron Williams’ shooting percentage on uncontested shots. There was a stretch in the game where it was exclusively him and Kyle Korver (18 points on just 31 touches) kept the Cavs in the game.

0 — Richard Jefferson’s points scored despite playing 20 more than 20 minutes. “He was phenomenal at the All-Star break, and then he missed those six days, and I think he’s still trying to catch back up,” said Lue. “He wasn’t able to do any conditioning. That’s taken a toll on him.We’ll keep working with him.”

2 — The number of minutes recorded by Larry Sanders in a game where Tristan Thompson didn’t play and Kevin Love fouled out. I remember being super excited about this addition. I have a feeling this may have been all for naught.

2 — The number of four-point plays recorded by the Cavs in the game’s final minutes. First it was Kevin Love who earned three the hard way before going to the line, then it was Deron Williams whose fatigue-filled follow-through found him on his back.

2,633 — The number of days that have passed since the Cavaliers won a game in Miami. LeBron James led the way, but with help from guys like Daniel Gibson and Shaquille O’Neal. Jamario Moon even suited up.

21 — The number of losses the Cavaliers amassed on the road this season, giving them an under-.500 mark for the year. When discussing this mark, one should note the Cavs rested stars exclusively on the road, but also remember that they lost way too many games they should have won—Sunday night in Atlanta, for instance.

1.5 — The Cavaliers’ lead in the East following their win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

1 The Cavaliers’ deficit in the East following their loss on Monday.

1 —  As in one game remaining on a regular season that cannot end soon enough. Thanks to three consecutive losses, Wednesday night’s game against the Raptors could determine seeding for the Eastern Conference. It’s also Fan Appreciation Night. So one can surely expect a full-bore attempt to right the ship heading into this weekend’s start of the playoffs, right?