No Hassan Whiteside for the Heat again Tuesday.
No Whiteside and no Bam Adebayo seemed like a worse prospect.
That was news to the Heat, which scored one of its most impressive victories of the season Tuesday night by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 98-79 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
With Dwyane Wade and LeBron James squaring off as opponents for the first time in over a year, the Heat (40-35) took control in the first half with a tremendous defensive effort that limited Cleveland (44-30) to a season-low 34 points and snapped the Cavs’ five-game winning streak. James’ all-time record against the Heat in Miami fell to 4-13, which is his worst against any NBA team.
The Heat held the Cavaliers to 29.8 percent shooting (13 of 44) in the first half. Miami shot 53.8 percent (21 of 39) during that half.
James finished with a team-high 18 points and seven assists, but couldn’t make a dent on the Heat’s dominance thanks largely to James Johnson’s great defense. Johnson continued his recent stellar play, finishing with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. Kelly Olynyk finished with a game-high 19 points as five Heat players scored in double figures.
The Heat went to a smaller lineup off the bench with Jordan Mickey making only his fourth career start and third of the season. Whiteside missed his ninth consecutive game with a left hip flexor strain and Adebayo sat out with a sprained right ankle he suffered in Miami’s loss Sunday at Indiana.
The Heat also took advantage of Kevin Love’s absence for most of the game.
Less than two minutes into the game, Love took an elbow to the face loosening one of his front teeth. He returned later in the half, but only played seven minutes overall and finished with one point after going 0 for 2 from the field.
The Heat, which has seven games left to play, increased its lead over the Detroit Pistons (eight games left) to 5½ games and would either be half a game ahead or behind Milwaukee for seventh place in the East depending on the outcome of the Bucks’ game against the Clippers in Los Angeles late Tuesday night.
Miami couldn’t gain ground on the Washington Wizards (41-33), however, who beat San Antonio on Tuesday.