When Daniel Gibson hit a three pointer with 1:57 left to go in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Cavaliers were going to upset the Miami Heat in South Beach. They had all of the momentum, and Miami was really struggling to find its groove offensively. But, in a way only the Cavaliers could lose, the Cavaliers succumbed late to a Miami burst lead by Ray Allen, and lost 110-108. Jeremy Pargo and Dion Waiters co-lead the Cavaliers with 16 points apiece, while Anderson Varejao had 10 points and 15 rebounds. LeBron James lead Miami with 30 points, with Chris Bosh and Allen chipping in 23 and 17 respectively. 14 of Allen’s 17 came in the final four minutes, including the three pointer that sealed the game for good with 18.2 seconds to go.
The Cavaliers bench scored 41 points, the team lead for over forty minutes, and were under two minutes from being the first team to beat Miami on their home floor this season. In those last two fateful minutes, Allen killed the Cavaliers. He was effective driving to hole, and he nailed a three with 18.2 seconds to go that gave Miami their first lead since the first quarter. In fact, in a span of nine seconds, the Heat closed the Cavs original eight-point lead to three without even breaking a sweat.
Quarters one through three were all pretty similar in the sense that Cleveland was in control the majority of the time period. Each period, the Cavs hung tough, withstood Miami’s runs, and maintained their lead. This was the first time all season that the Cavaliers really seemed to play as a team from start to finish, and it showed. Every player (besides Tyler Zeller) who saw action tonight scored in double figures, they seemed to feed off of one another. The Heat got their points, with LeBron and Bosh leading the way, but Cleveland consistently stayed ahead. Varejao was incredibly active on the offensive boards, and Pargo again kept the Cavaliers in sync for the majority of forty-eight minutes. Even with the loss, this was a game the Cavaliers can learn from moving forward. To be blunt, the Cavaliers are a below average team with their star player out with injury, and they gave the defending NBA champs everything they could handle. If moral victories do indeed exist, then this is a prime example of one.
The best part about this game for Cleveland was the bench. As mentioned before, The Cavs bench scored 41 points as compared to Miami’s 26 points. The play of the bench (which was also solid against Philadelphia and Orlando) has really improved over the last few games. This is a very good sign as the bench has been the weak part of the team for the entire season up to this point. Tonight, the star of the bench was Omri Casspi. He is starting to look comfortable with his shot, and tonight scored 15 points in 15 minutes. Coupled with C.J. Miles, who is starting to find his groove, and the consistently good play of Gibson, the Cavs bench seems to getting its stride as Kyrie Irving is out with an injury. When Irving comes back, a bench of Pargo, Gibson, Casspi, Miles, Zeller, and Samuels seems pretty good to me. I doubt the Cavaliers and coach Byron Scott will go 11 deep night in and night out, but at least they will have that luxury if becomes necessary on a given night.
The Cavaliers next travel to Memphis on Monday to take on Zach Randolph and the Grizzles. The Griz are stand 9-2, and are coming off an eight-point win over the Los Angles Lakers, asserting themselves as a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. It will another tough test on the road for the Wine & Gold.