LeBron James’ first season will end without a playoff appearance.
Eliminated from the playoff race Friday, James and the Cavaliers have three regular-season games remaining, including the back end of a home-and-home series with the Miami Heat.
James had 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds Friday, but the Heat outscored the Cavaliers 27-12 in the fourth quarter on their way to a 106-91 win in Miami.
“I’m not a loser. I’ll never be a loser,” said James, who committed eight of Cleveland’s 18 turnovers. “It’s hard, it’s frustrating when we’re playing hard and we lose.”
Cleveland, which has lost eight straight and 12 of 13, was without point guard Jeff McInnis, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, and forward Eric Williams, who is on the injured list with a right wrist contusion.
“If we had our full team and we were reaching this point, I’d be sorely disappointed,” Cleveland coach Paul Silas said. “But being short-handed, it was kind of inevitable.”
Rookie guard Dwyane Wade scored 20 points to lead six Heat players in double figures, and Miami pulled away with a 29-8 run in the second half.
“We’ve come back so many times, we always think we can do it on the offensive end of the floor, but at some point that’s all going to run out,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.
The Heat, who have already clinched their first playoff spot since 2001, have won three straight and four of five. They need to win two of their final three to finish with a winning record.
As they try to sharpen their defense for the postseason, the Heat will again focus most of their defensive efforts on James.
Caron Butler covered James most of the night Friday, but James still found his way to the basket and drew fouls.
“We were trying to lure him into the double team, and I was trying to push him in certain ways and lead him into charges,” Butler said. “He still was getting off shots, but we preferred to have other guys shoot the ball.”