Nov 24, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket as Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Daniel Gibson (1) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Miami Heat Need Late-Game Heroics to Beat Depleted Cleveland Team

Just call him curtains because Ray Allen is becoming the Miami Heat’s bonafide closer on yet another night where the team needed late-game theatrics to put away a weaker opponent.

Facing adversity for a second consecutive game, Ray Allen bailed the Heat out of what could have been an embarrassing loss at home against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was 3-9 coming in and also without sophomore phenom Kyrie Irving. Even without Irving, the Cavs led the Heat for 45 minutes, using 14 three-pointers (10 coming in the first half) and taking advantage of the Heat’s carelessness with the ball.

Miami had 18 turnovers to their 21 assists. Seven of those came from LeBron James alone. He also had six assists, none being more important than the pass to a wide-open Allen on the right elbow. The shot put the Heat up 109-108 with 18.2 seconds left. On the other end, Dwyane Wade blocked the layup of Cavaliers point guard Jeremy Pargo, which would lead to a pair of Ray Allen free throws. Allen would only convert one, but he missed his second which caused the clock to fall from 2.6 seconds to .6 seconds.

Cleveland couldn’t get a shot off on the other end.

LeBron James had a pedestrian 30 points on 16 shots and six rebounds to accompany those five assists. Dwyane Wade started off slow and had a few other moments where his head was in the clouds, but he settled down and made some big plays late to finish with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

The Heat appeared destined for their first home loss of the season after a Daniel Gibson three-pointer gave the Cavaliers a seven-point lead with 1:58 remaining. LeBron hit a layup six seconds later and Allen converted a layup that came with a free throw to cut the Cavs lead to two in the span of 26 seconds.

Allen finished with 17 points, 15 coming in the fourth quarter alone. We here in Miami are seeing why Boston was hurt to see him go.

Before the celebration ensued, the Heat were as close as they could be to one of their worst home losses in the Big Three era. The Cavaliers were playing without their star player, yet managed to find a balance that featured eight players scoring in double-figures. The backcourt duo of Jeremy Pargo and rookie Dion Waiters each contributed 16 and combining to shoot 5-of-13 from beyond the arc.

The NBA’s leading rebounder in Anderson Varejao boosted his stats with 15 boards. However, the Heat won the overall rebounding battle 39-32 thanks in part to Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade each bringing down seven. Five Heat players recorded at least five rebounds.

Thanks to the lackadaisical play that resulted in far too many turnovers and the lack of close-outs on the perimeter, the Cavaliers were able to build up a 59-48 lead going into the half. Their biggest lead of the night would come with 9:48 to play in the third quarter following a trio of Alonzo Gee free throws that put the Cavaliers up 65-53, as well as a Tristan Thompson free throw that gave the Cavs a 68-56 lead with 8:25 to play.

Slowly but surely, the Heat worked their way back into it with smart execution and improved defense. For every step forward they took, however, the Cavaliers were able to stave off the Heat. In fact, it wasn’t until a Dwyane Wade free throw with 3:09 left in the fourth did the Heat finally tie it. Ray Allen’s game-winning triple gave the Heat their first lead since it was 12-9 with 8:01 left in the first.

Obviously, there will be those who are concerned with the Heat needing LeBron James to play 40 minutes in order to beat a team as bad as the Cavaliers. And there will also be those who will have even greater concern that the Heat just gave up 108 points to a team without its best player. Natural to be worrisome, but also know that the Heat are essentially coasting, and that’s the reason why a team like Cleveland can suddenly shoot and have one of the most efficient offenses in basketball.

When you give up ten three-pointers in 24 minutes, chances are that your defense is either bad or lazy. Since the Heat just won a championship with similar defense, it’s safe to say that the effort isn’t exactly there for the entirety of 48 minutes, especially when you consider that it was Cleveland who was coming into Miami on the second night of a back-to-back.

Instead, what we’re getting is a team that is treating a November game against Cleveland as if it was a November game against Cleveland.

Perhaps this will wake the Heat up: A Thursday night matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat may be without starting power forward Shane Battier. The defensive stalwart had his ankle rolled into and he immediately gingerly ran off the court into the lockerroom. That took place midway through the third quarter and Battier didn’t return. There is no word on the extent of the injury.

 

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