LeBron James couldn’t have gotten much satisfaction out of his first victory against the Miami Heat since leaving for Cleveland.
Dwyane Wade couldn’t play.
Chris Bosh couldn’t score.
Hassan Whiteside didn’t matter.
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Playing against a team he barely recognized, James and his Cavaliers defeated the Heat 113-93 on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena in the Heat’s final game before the All-Star break. The Heat lost eight of its last 12 games going into the weeklong reprieve. The team now will use that time to get healthy for the final 30 games of the regular season.
“Hopefully, we can come back refreshed and see what we can do these last 30 days and try to make a move,” Bosh said.
The Heat hasn’t been completely healthy all season, and three players missed Wednesday’s game. In addition to Wade’s absence due to a hamstring injury, the Heat was also without rookie forward James Ennis (illness) and reserve Shawne Williams (hip injury). The Heat (22-30) lacked the offense to run with the Cavaliers and lacked the passion to compete defensively.
In other words, the game got out of hand early. The Heat trailed by 26 points four minutes into the second quarter.
Starting at shooting guard for Wade, Mario Chalmers led the Heat with 18 points and Luol Deng (17 points) kept pace with James. Whiteside had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Those were the only positive performances for the Heat, though. Bosh was 5-of-17 shooting from the field, and 1-of-4 from three-point range for 15 points, and the Cavs scored 26 points off of 15 turnovers by the Heat.
Asked about the second half of the season, Deng said he didn’t want to look ahead that far.
“Honestly right now, I’m just thinking of the break and I’m going to take the break, enjoy the break, work, come back in shape, everyone will be healthy, and we’ll take it one game at a time,” Deng said.
While the Heat sputtered through the game, the Cavaliers (33-21) showed exceptional balance offensively. Seven players scored in double figures and James only played 32 minutes. He checked out with seven minutes left and his team leading by 20 points. James had 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
An eye injury sent Cavs forward Kevin Love to the locker room with 9:48 left the third quarter, but the Heat couldn’t capitalize. Down by 16 points when Love went out, the Heat quickly fell behind by 20 points after back-to-back buckets by James.
Led by a pair of three-pointers by Chalmers, the Heat cut the Cavs’ lead to 12 points with 3:34 left in the third quarter, but Miami didn’t get any closer. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was out of options by the end of third period, and finished it with a lineup featuring Chalmers, Norris Cole and rookie Tyler Johnson, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen.
The Heat outscored the Cavaliers by 16 points in the first half with Whiteside on the court, but the center only played 28 minutes due to foul trouble. It was an odd day for Whiteside, who refused to answer questions from reporters during the morning’s shootaround, and then was pulled from the game in the first quarter following a three-second violation.
Whiteside walked off the court before his replacement, Chris Andersen, could be subbed into the game, which forced an official to stop play. After Whiteside returned to the court, he then sprinted to the bench while ignoring Andersen, who had his hand up for a high-five.
Earlier on Wednesday, Whiteside scuttled an interview session with reporters by repeating, “I got nothing to say,” after each question. Whiteside said he was upset that one of his comments about James before the game was “blown out of proportion.” Whiteside called James “a good player” on Tuesday, and James interpreted the comment as a slight.
“It's a huge pick up for them, for sure,” James said of Whiteside. “I know a lot of teams wish they had him. He was up in Memphis earlier in the season, and Miami lucked up on something and it's good. I'm happy for them. I'm happy for the kid more than anything ... even though he just thinks I'm a good player, I'm happy for him."