If the Cavaliers were going to falter - I mean, without Delonte West and Mo Williams - you figured this could be one. The Miami Heat were playing great basketball and the Cavaliers are still trying to figure out how they are going to get by game to game. To be honest, I just didn't have a good felling about it.
Ye of little faith.
What started out a blowout by the Heat, morphed into a shoot-out between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, then turned into a sloppy, slow-down half-court affair. The Cavaliers, as they have done so often this season, were able to make the plays, especially in the final minute, to get a huge road win, their 18th of the season, against the Heat 92-91.
The game plan of the Cavaliers, without their two best ball-handlers not named James, is simple - they are going to feature Shaq as long as his fouls will allow it. That meant 19 points in 27 minutes for Shaq tonight in a slow-down, grind-it-out offensive effort. At least for 3 quarters.
In the 2nd quarter, it became more of the game we expect out of Wade and James. After both men took their normal rest to start the 2nd Quarter, they decided to kick it up a notch on the offensive end. The result was a game that at many times looked more like a game of horse than a professional basketball game. Wade would hit a 3, LeBron would hit a 3. Wade would drill a step-back jumper, LeBron would hit a step-back jumper. Perhaps the play of the game, a LeBron James dunk, which he over-powered Wade, who dared tried to block him from behind.
At the end of the carnage, LeBron had scored 20 points in the quarter, D-Wade had 17. It appeared we were on the verge of a classic.
It wasn't to be. After combing to score 52 of 104 points in the first half, LeBron and D-Wade took a back seat in a methodical 3rd Quarter that saw the teams combine to score 32 points. Down 69-67 to start the 4th, the stage was set.
Credit the Cavaliers for one thing - they were resilient tonight. Down 14 in the first quarter, then down 11 in the third, the Cavaliers kept fighting back - mainly behind their defense - and big shots from Daniel Gibson.
A word about Gibson. His limitations handling the basketball are well noted. His defensive liabilities are obvious as well. That said, the dude can drill clutch shots and he did so again tonight. Gibson scored 15 points on 5-10 shooting. That's all the Cavaliers can ask from Gibson.
Anderson Varejao bounced back from a downer against the Thunder with a 13 point, 10 rebound performance.
As for Wade, he never regained the touch in the 2nd half, scoring just 2 points in the 2nd half. Amazingly, Wade was just 9-16 from the free throw line, somewhere Wade usually eats up the opposition. In the end, Wade and James locked on to each other with James once again making the big defensive play - tonight it was a steal on a lazy behind the back pass - followed by 2 free throws to give the Cavaliers the lead and the win.
A win is a win, especially on the road, and the Cavaliers keep piling them up. The team is now 35-11, with over half of those wins(18) coming on the road. At 18-8, the Cavaliers have played more road games than anyone, something that will serve the team well down the stretch as the home games begin to pile up.
The Cavaliers come back home Wednesday night for a meeting with the T-Wolves.