On a road back-to-back in Miami, after spending the night in Atlanta, the Cleveland Cavaliers predictably rested LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The results played out the way they normally do without the Big Three - not in the Cavaliers’ favor, as the Miami Heat took tonight’s matchup, 120-92.
The Cavs were actually able to put up a good fight for a quarter, as their nine-man rotation produced a 35 point first frame to end in a 35-35 tie. An early flurry of Deron Williams drive-and-kicks and Kyle Korver threes kept the Cavs in control, but they started bleeding defensively late in the quarter, as Luke Babbitt and former Cavalier Wayne Ellington each hit a pair of threes to help Miami stay with Cleveland.
That defensive bleeding continued throughout the game, getting significantly worse in a 32-16 2nd quarter. The Cavs allowed Miami to shoot 52.9 percent from three, and they hit 18 of them, supplemented by 15 offensive boards. With Hassan Whiteside controlling the interior (13 rebounds, four offensive), the Heat were able to dictate pace and set up their shooters on kick-outs, and the Cavs were unable to stop them.
In terms of positives for Cleveland, Channing Frye led the team with 21 points, shooting 9-12 from the field and stressing Whiteside and Okaro White on the defensive end. Iman Shumpert also had some nice moments playing as the lead guard when Deron Williams sat, beating Goran Dragic off the dribble twice and hitting Richard Jefferson for a buzzer-beating three to end the first quarter. The Cavs also held Dion Waiters in check, as he had just 8 points on 3-10 shooting, and was mostly the bad things Cavs fans remember from the tenure.
The only real lasting ramification from this game may be regarding Shumpert, who chipped two teeth in a collision during the third quarter. He returned to the game, but if there is any significant work needed on those teeth after the game, his status for Monday’s return match with Miami may be questionable.
There’s not really much else to say here: The Cavs will more than likely be playing LeBron and Kyrie on Monday, and there isn’t much the Heat did tonight that tells us much about how Monday might go. The only real translatable matchup is that Whiteside had so much success against Tristan Thompson, but with James and Irving, the Cavs will be using Thompson differently on the offensive end. Andrew Bogut should also debut Monday, which will be interesting. But outside of that, this was a blowout win by a gritty and athletic team against a squad of veteran backups. Let’s see how a fully functional Cavs squad responds Monday.