As part of trying to hype the game up between the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers, two angles were used – LeBron James becoming a free agent in 2014 and possibly returning to his first NBA team, and the rise of Kyrie Irving among the ranks of NBA stars.
Both things don’t seem to hold true, not at the moment. While James has proved he can surprise a lot of people, it’s hard to imagine him returning to the team Dan Sterling is running. This is a business, but some bridges stay burnt. And Irving? A very good player, great in a year or two, but there’s no real room for comparison between the two.
The Heat did struggle to put away the Cavs, winning 109-105, but it was their 11th win in a row, the longest active streak in the NBA, and can’t all be double digit victories like most of them have been. While James was the one to lead the team scoring 28 points and adding 8 assists, it was Dwyane Wade in the fourth quarter that was the dominant player, continuing an intriguing trend from their winning streak.
In the first 43 games of the season, Wade was the third-leading scorer and ranked fifth in rebounds and fourth in assists. In the last 11 games? Wade leads the team in points (8.3 per game), rebounds (2.5), assists (2.1) and the always important +/- issue, with a +62. James always gets all of the accolades, but Wade, hiding behind some sort of declining perception, is probably just as important, just in other ways.
James was actually involved in the clinching play of the game, although unintentionally. With 1:03 remaining, Chris Bosh was about to attempt a 16-foot jumper, but instead passed to a wide open James under the basket. LeBron, somehow, missed the layup, with the Heat up 103-101. Bosh grabbed the offensive rebound, the Heat ran down the clock and Wade finished with a dunk that pretty much put the game to bed with a 105-101 lead and 24.4 left.
Hey, I’m a smart player. That’s what basketball IQ is all about. I have no idea how I blew that layup. But it did work out for us. Got an extra possession, D-Wade was able to turn the corner and get a slam. I liked that play.
Kyrie Irving? Irving wasn’t even the leading scorer on his team, getting some extra attention from the Heat’s defense, finishing with 17 points while Dion Waiters got an easier time, scoring 26. The Cavs lost in Miami for the second time this season, again taking the game down to the wire. It’s been a frustrating season for a team that thought it might have a chance at making the playoffs, but Irving’s injury early on and Anderson Varejao’s injury later on doomed them to another lottery finish. The Heat? No frustrations, no worries about not being able to make it into an easy win.
We’re a veteran ballclub and we’ve been in every situation that an NBA game can offer us. We don’t get too high, we don’t get too low, we just play the 48 minutes out and see where it takes us.