HEAT 118, CAVS 90 (MIA 12-8)
The big Return to Cleveland has finally come and gone. It went much as you might predict: big, fraught atmosphere; loud, cacophonous boos from the stands; and the Heat overwhelming an undermatched team. The Cavs aren’t good, and there’s no debate to be had about that. The Heat have been very good against bad teams this year but struggled against the top teams, which means we can’t take that much meaning from this win. Sure, there was a playoff-type atmosphere and everyone was as amped as you can get for an early December NBA game.
But does this really tell us how the Heat will fare in the playoffs? Not quite. The only thing it says is that when the stakes seem high (even if they aren’t, not really), this team can perform like a collection of superstars, so long as their competition isn’t great. A win like this against a playoff-caliber team, like the dominant performance over Orlando a month ago, says a lot more. In and of itself, all this game says is that a good team with more talent can beat a subpar team with less talent. At the same time, a loss would have been embarrassing as hell, so at least the team could put together a good showing when they had to.
And this was nothing short of a terrific showing for the Heat. They were ahead by 19 at the half and 30 points after three quarters. They shot 56 percent to Cleveland’s 35 percent. James Jones came off the bench to sink five three-pointers, which was nice to see, and gives me a chance to revisit the JAMES JONES THREE-POINTER TRACKER or whatever it’s called. LeBron finished with 38 points in three quarters, including a third-quarter with 24 points where he went 10-for-12, before sitting out the final quarter. Dwyane Wade nearly had a triple-double with 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. The Heat barely went to the line, taking just 21 free throws to Cleveland’s 37, reminding us that while they can score in droves from the perimeter, they still don’t go nuts in the paint all that much (though they didn’t need to in this game).
Besides the derisive chanting, the booing, the signs and the general feeling of unified hatred in the same place and by the same people where there had been undying love seven months ago, there were no real problem or issues.