When the going gets tough, games get complicated for no reason. LeBron James was scorching for the Miami Heat, playing against a very depleted Cleveland Cavaliers team. Somehow the game came down to a nail biter in the fourth quarter, where Chris Bosh took over while James provided some late defense to finish the job.
The Heat came away with the 100-96 win in a Cleveland arena that is always pumped up to see the “traitor” return, although most of them secretly wish he’d return one day. The Cavs were playing without Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng and C.J. Miles, but having Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters in the backcourt meants a lot more sharing of the ball, as the Cavs finished with 27 assists, usually a weak point in their offense.
James led the way with 43 points, opening the game with 25 in the first quarter, showing he’s meaning to fill for Dwyane Wade who sat this one out. James finished the first half with 31 points and seemed to be a bit shot-shy later in the game. He finished with 14-of-19 from the field and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. However, his most memorable play will be his block on Spencer Hawes late in the game, as the Heat’s defense, holding the Cavs to 17 fourth quarter points, seemed to get the job done.
There was also Chris Bosh, suddenly finding himself playing a lot of minutes as a power forward. He scored 21 points, 12 of them coming in the second half, and once again showing that he rarely misses in the fourth quarter, when the team actually remembers to get him the ball in crunch time.
Greg Oden started at center for the second consecutive game. It wasn’t just his highlight dunk and block on Dion Waiters that is worth mentioning. He makes the Heat harder to score against and especially rebound against, with the Cavs grabbing only four offensive rebounds through the game. Toney Douglas started for Dwyane Wade and finished with 9 points, while Ray Allen had another strong performance off the bench, scoring 14, although he was slightly cold from long range with 2-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Maybe if Dion Waiters wasn’t struggling (6-of-19) from the field, the Cavs would have gotten away with a big win. The rest of the team shot 58.5% from the field, and it looked like having a point guard who looks for the pass first made a world of a difference for a team that is still trying to find its way into the playoffs. Waiters had 17 points and 11 assists, Jack finished with 22 points and 4 assists, but the Cavs couldn’t get by the stage of trading shots with the Heat and doing more than tying the game twice in the fourth quarter.
Miami are going through an evolutionary phase. Not just handling fatigue and defensive problems late in the season. Erik Spoelstra is trying to change something he’s stuck by with since the 2012 Eastern conference finals – the small ball, and not playing with a real center most of the time. Greg Oden is a game changer if he’s going to be able to give Miami 15-20 mintues a night without breaking down, but it still remains to be seen if that change is a positive one or something that actually makes the team regress.