The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat split their season series after a 114-88 win for the Cavs, led by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, making the most of a Dwyane Wade injury in the second quarter.
Wade slipped and extended his right leg and bruised his left knee. He was taken out and didn’t return. The Heat were losing by 10 points with him on the floor, and things got a whole lot worse without him. The Cavaliers had no problem simply running over the remaining Heat players with some fantastic shooting (15-of-35 from beyond the arc) and punishing the Heat for their mistakes, scoring 23 points off of their turnovers.
Both James and Irving scored 23 points. LeBron made it another statistical masterpiece with 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocks. He also surpassed Patrick Ewing on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, moving into the top 20. Kevin Love got another game of rest, allowing James Jones to start although he really didn’t get to do much.
Players who did get a chance to impress through the blowout and plenty of garbage time where Iman Shumpert with 17 points, his highest scoring game for the Cavaliers and the most he has scored in a game since mid November. Matthew Dellavedova added 14 points (4-of-5 from beyond the arc), matching his season high with a rare double figure scoring night for the Australian guard.
Beyond the talk of statistical and individual brilliance, the important outcome of this game was how the Heat find themselves in a heap of trouble. The Cavaliers are going to finish second in the East; nothing is going to prevent that. But the Heat? They’ve now fallen back to 8th in the conference with a 34-41 record, tied with the Boston Celtics who are ninth, trailing only because of certain tiebreakers.
With seven games left on the schedule, the Heat can hardly afford any slip ups. All their rivals are Eastern conference teams and they do have four home games, and finishing against Orlando and Philadelphia should help, but beyond the calculations of who it’s good to play against and who isn’t, not having Dwyane Wade (he has one day to rest) will be a complete and utter disaster.
The Cavaliers are one or two wins away from being able to resting their starters. The Raptors and Bulls are 3.5 games behind them as the East in seeds 1 through 6 seems to be completely set. LeBron James can put in one or two more big nights of work before getting a few days off, before meeting the Brooklyn Nets (right now), Miami Heat or Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. None of them should really provide too much of a challenge for a team that’s look more than ready to challenge for the title.