The Cavaliers suffered a pair of losses Monday night. The first was a 106-98 loss at home to Miami.
The second and perhaps worse loss for the Cavs came when they lost Andrew Bogut for the rest of the season after the newly-acquired big man went down with a fractured left tibia early in the second quarter.
The Heat had a fourth quarter lead as large as 20 points, but the Cavaliers slowly chipped away at it and managed to cut the deficit down to 101-90 with 5:01 to play in the game. It started with a pair of 3-pointers from LeBron James. A couple possessions later, a Kyrie Irving triple cut the Heat lead to 101-93 at the four minute mark.
James with 30 points and Irving with 32, were the only two Cavaliers players in double figures Monday.
The Cavs had a chance to dig into the deficit even more, but Deron Williams tried to force a pass to a cutting Richard Jefferson, leading to a steal from Goran Dragic and a pair of free throws from Josh Richardson.
Five straight points from the Cavs had the Heat lead down to 103-98. From the start of the game, though, it was Dion Waiters’ night, so it was only fitting that the former Cavalier banked in a dagger 3-pointer with just 0:12 left to seal the game for Miami. Cleveland had simply dug itself too big of a hole to climb out of.
It should come as no surprise that Waiters came out of the gates firing against his former team. The always interesting shooting guard scored 14 of his team-high 29 points on 12-24 shooting from the floor and 5-9 shooting from 3-point range.
The Cavaliers’ persistent issues manifested themselves again on Monday, as they could not keep the Heat out of the paint in addition to allowing the Heat to shoot nearly 46 percent from 3-point range. Offensively, the Cavs had 17 turnovers compared to only 15 assists, and they went just 19-29 from the free throw line.
After an uninspired first half, the Cavs opened the second half with a 7-0 burst that was highlighted by a pair of blocked shots on defense and a contested Irving 3-pointer. Miami retorted quickly, however. A four-point possession and a Rodney McGruder 3-pointer had the Heat’s lead back up to 69-59.
Several possessions later, the Cavs had trimmed the lead down to 69-66, but thanks to a 20-7 run, Miami had its lead back up to 89-71 by the end of the third quarter. Just as Waiters did in the first half, Wayne Ellington, another former Cavalier, lit Cleveland up in the third quarter, going 3-3 from 3-point land.
Ellington finished with 18 points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench. The entire Heat backcourt gave Cleveland headaches Monday, as Dragic also had a big game with 21 points and six assists.
In addition to facing a seven point deficit, the Cavs faced some trouble to start the second quarter when the newly-signed Bogut went down and had to be helped off the floor after playing only two minutes in his Cavaliers debut.
After aggressively attacking the rim for much of the first quarter, the Heat continued to get inside in the second. Granted, part of the reason Miami was able to get inside so often was that Cleveland lacked intensity defensively. Miami finished baskets in the paint 12 times in the first half, and what was even more frustrating is that seven of those baskets came from guards.
Things weren’t any better offensively for Cleveland. Even when the Cavs attacked offensively and drew fouls, they did not take advantage of their opportunities, going just 7-14 from the free throw line in the first half.
Despite the lackluster effort for most of the first 24 minutes, the Cavs showed some flashes of life late in the second quarter. Trailing 10 with 1:36 left in the half, Irving and James ran a pick and roll from the wing that resulted in a James jam that trimmed Miami’s lead to 56-48. However, two possessions later, the Cavaliers left Rodney McGruder wide open for a 3-pointer to make it 59-48.
After James had put back a miss from Jefferson to draw the Cavs within single digits, Waiters drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with just six seconds left. Irving then took the inbounds pass and raced down floor for a last second layup to cut the Heat’s lead to 62-52 heading into halftime.
Neither team looked sharp to start the game, but Cleveland had trouble getting shots off cleanly near the rim. The Heat had four blocked shots through the first seven minutes of the game. The Cavaliers simply looked out of sync with the ball in their hands for much of the first quarter. First quarter turnovers were an issue for the Cavs once again, as they coughed it up five times in the first 12 minutes.
The Cavs will have a couple days to regroup before going to Detroit to take on the Pistons Thursday.