The Cavaliers had no business being in this game with the Heat, in Miami, without the injured Kyrie Irving. But they weren’t only in it, they were on track to win it — until the final two minutes, when it all fell apart.
The Heat beat Cleveland 110-108 on Saturday, but they waited until almost the last possible moment to do so.
Cleveland led this one by 11 at the half, and kept Miami at bay for 46 minutes. Every time the Heat made a run, the Cavs seemed to respond. The games are played for 48 minutes, however, and those last two were where Miami turned it on and made sure they’d leave with the victory.
How did the Cavaliers manage to control the game against the defending world champions, despite the disparity in talent? By getting everyone involved to where they had eight players score in double figures, hitting 14-of-31 three-pointers as a team which was good for over 45 percent, and turning the ball over just 11 times.
Still, it wasn’t enough. Because when the game got tight and the Heat had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Ray Allen all making plays down the stretch, the lack of star power on the Cavaliers finally was exposed.
Cleveland led 108-101 with under two minutes to play, after a three-pointer from LeBron’s former teammate, Daniel Gibson. Those would be the last points the Cavaliers scored all night.
On the next possession, James took the ball at the top of the arc and drove to the basket for a layup as if the defense wasn’t even there. After Chris Bosh stopped an attempt in the lane from Jeremy Pargo, Allen scored on a driving layup and was fouled, giving him the and-1 opportunity to cut the lead to just two, which he did after sinking the obligatory free throw.
With the walls beginning to close in on the Cavs, Gibson airballed a three-pointer from the left wing, and Anderson Varejao missed a 20-foot jumper after an offensive rebound from Alonzo Gee had given Cleveland another shot.
On the Heat’s next possession, Wade fed the ball to LeBron in the post, and when the help defenders came, he quickly tossed it out to an open Ray Allen, who calmly knocked down the three that would prove to be the game-winner. The Cavs had one more chance with possession and trailing by one, but Pargo dribbled into the teeth of the Heat defense, and had his shot blocked by Wade in the game’s final few seconds.
The Heat have talked about the fact that they’re experiencing what all champions experience, which is everyone bringing their A-game each and every night to try to take down the team that hoisted the trophy last June.
An undermanned Cavs team shouldn’t have been able to put up 108 points on the Heat’s home floor, no matter the ultimate result. But Miami turned it on when it mattered, and came away with the victory nonetheless.