Clearly, the whole Miami-Cleveland beef doesn’t interest the Heat anymore. Just as clear, the Heat can win on a night it sleepwalks through a game and only begins playing in the final minutes.
Such was the case on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami trailed by seven points with less than two minutes remaining but scored nine straight points to extended its home winning streak to six games. LeBron James had 30 points in the Heat’s 110-108 victory against his former team.
“Our guys absolutely relish those moments in the fourth quarter, that competitive spirit … and we need to get out of here as quickly as we can before they put more time on the clock,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
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No doubt about it, the Heat (10-3) sneaked out of the back door of the arena with this one.
James found Ray Allen open for a three-pointer from the wing with 18.2 seconds left, and Allen buried the shot to give the Heat a 109-108 lead. The Heat never led by more than three points the entire game. Cleveland (3-10) was 14 of 31 from three-point range.
Allen had 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. He was 5 of 6 from the field in the period and 3 of 4 from three-point range.
“You don’t need much room at all,” James said of Allen’s quick release. “I feel like Tom Brady in the playoffs.”
James was visibly upset with the collective effort level of his teammates after the third quarter. He barked at Mario Chalmers and whoever else would listen and then slammed his warm-up over his head.
The Heat never really responded until the 11th hour of the game. Just like the victory against the Bucks on Wednesday, it’s all Miami needed.
Cavs guard Daniel Gibson nailed a three-pointer to give Cleveland a 108-101 lead with 1:58 left to cap a 7-0 run. Anderson Varejao put the Cavs ahead 103-101 with a hard-fought basket inside, and Dion Waiters made a pair of free throws after a clear-path foul by Chalmers.
James started the comeback with a layup following a timeout, and Chris Bosh delivered a key defensive stop when he blocked Jeremy Pargo from close range. It wouldn’t be the last significant block of the dramatic finish.
“We don’t want to get into the habit of coasting,” Bosh said. “That’s not something we want to build on. Sometimes you’re just stuck in those positions, and you have to fight your way out.”
With 1:32 left, Allen cut the Cavs’ lead to three points with an old-fashioned three-point play. For the first few weeks of the season, Allen said he has been learning where all of his teammates are in clutch situations. He seems to have a good idea at this point.
“It’s all about spacing,” Allen said. “The guy who is open is going to take that last shot.”
Following Allen’s dramatic three-pointer, Wade delivered an equally clutch defensively block when he rejected Pargo’s game-winning attempt with 2.6 seconds left.
“It speaks to the competitive will we have in the locker room,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t want to put ourselves in position where we have to make big plays at the end of the games to win … but our guys understand that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
James was 10 of 16 from the field and 2 of 5 from three-point range. He also had six rebounds, five assists but seven turnovers. The Cavaliers had 22 points off 18 turnovers by the Heat.
Wade scored 18 points, going 6 of 15 from the field. He had seven rebounds and four assists. The bulk of his points (13) came in the second half. He appeared sluggish in the early going but saved enough for the fourth quarter to make the game-saving defensive stop.
Bosh had 23 points, going 6 of 11 from the field. He was 11 of 13 from the free-throw line and was especially aggressive in the first half. He made 9 of 11 free throws in the game’s first two quarters.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Cavaliers. Waiters and Pargo had 16 points each. Pargo was starting for injured guard Kyrie Irving, who broke a finger against Dallas last week.
Shane Battier left the game in the second half with a strained knee, but Spoelstra said the forward was feeling better after the game. The Heat is off Sunday.