NBA News Wire
James’ early explosion powers Heat past Cavs
CLEVELAND — Once LeBron James entered into the zone, it was all over for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Heat forward exploded for a dazzling 25 points in the first quarter, and he finished with 43 in Miami’s 100-96 victory over the short-handed Cavaliers on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“It’s one of those zones,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. Sometimes you’re able to realize you have it going and you play it by ear.
“I felt a good rhythm. I shot the ball well in warm-ups and was able to carry over into the game.”
Point guard Jarrett Jack had a season-high 22 points for the Cavaliers, while shooting guard Dion Waiters recorded his first career double-double with 17 points and a career-high 11 assists. It was Waiters’ first starting assignment since Nov. 13.
James, who played seven years with the Cavaliers, has a 13-1 record against his old team since he left in 2010. The Heat (46-19) beat the Cavaliers for the 10th time in a row.
He converted 14 of 19 shots from the field, as well as six of eight from the 3-point arc. In the first quarter, James shot 10-for-11 overall, 5-for-6 from long range.
“His energy was outstanding,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He set the tone for the game.”
The teams were tied at 79 entering the fourth quarter.
The Heat (46-19) had a 95-90 lead with 28.9 seconds left when Waiters attacked the basket. He was knocked senseless under the basket, and James was credited with one of his three blocked shots.
“I believe I was fouled,” Waiters said.
Spoelstra said it was a potentially game-saving play.
“My favorite play of the game was that double block,” Spoelstra said. “I hope (Waiters) is OK, but (forward Udonis Haslem) and LeBron going for that is a possession-saving play.”
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said he didn’t ask for an explanation from the officials.
“As a coach, you get tired of complaining about calls,” he said. “Officials are human.”
Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade got the night off, but James more than picked up the slack.
“(James) got out in transition early in the game,” Brown said. “We didn’t do a good job of sticking to our rules. I didn’t care if he scored 70 if we had a chance to win. I was OK once we started to play the right way against them.”
The Cavaliers (26-42) dropped six games behind the Atlanta Hawks (31-35) for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Cleveland has 14 games remaining.
The Cavaliers shot 51.4 percent from the field and outrebounded the Heat, 41-36. However, Cleveland committed 20 turnovers, which led to 26 Miami points.
“It’s tough to overcome,” Brown said.
The Heat shot 45.3 percent but gave the ball away only 14 times, leading to 13 points.
On a night when the Cavaliers were missing their top two scorers, guard Kyrie Irving (strained biceps tendon) and forward Luol Deng (sprained left ankle), they had six players finish in double figures.
Cleveland center Anderson Varejao had 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds off the bench.
Miami All-Star forward Chris Bosh scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. Guard Ray Allen added 14 points for the Heat, who lost five of their previous seven games.
NOTES: Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving will be shut down for two weeks with a strained left biceps tendon. He is happy that he does not need surgery, but he does not know if he will see the court again this season. Irving was injured in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Dion Waiters. … Heat F LeBron James was asked point blank if he would ever return to Cleveland. “It’s too hard to think about,” he said. “Only time will tell.” … Former Ohio State C Greg Oden made his third start of the season for the Heat, including the last two games. “With the sheer size he brings to the game, there are benefits,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. Oden scored six points Tuesday. … Cavaliers F Luol Deng missed Tuesday’s game with a sprained left ankle. He rolled the ankle in Sunday’s game against the Clippers. Alonzo Gee started at small forward for the Cavaliers and scored 12 points. Swingman C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle) returned to the Cavaliers’ lineup after missing the previous 12 games. … Heat G Dwyane Wade was given the night off. He was replaced in the starting lineup by G Toney Douglas, who finished with nine points. … The game drew a crowd of 20,562.
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