Heat 106, Cavaliers 91
“We weren’t playing defense. Coach kept stressing that and we knew it,” Wade said. “We just really wanted to lock down on defense and get our transition game going.”
A crowd of 20,213, a record for the AmericanAirlines Arena, saw the surging Heat win their 11th in a row at home. The Heat, who began the season 0-7, raised their record above .500 (40-39) for the first time since Oct. 31, 2001.
James kept his team in the game, but the Heat outscored Cleveland 27-12 in the fourth quarter to kill the Cavs’ faint playoff hopes.
“I’m not a loser. I’ll never be a loser,” James said. “It’s hard, it’s frustrating when we’re playing hard and we lose.”
James led Cleveland with 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. The Cavs committed 18 turnovers, eight by James.
“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.”
Miami used 6-foot-7 forward Caron Butler on the 6-8 James for much of the game, but that didn’t hinder James from reaching the basket and drawing fouls. James went 11-of-15 from the foul line.
“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,” said Butler, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. “He still was getting off shots, but we preferred to have other guys shoot the ball.”
Odom scored five straight points to give the Heat a 92-86 lead with 6:23 left, and they never faltered.
“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.
James sparked the Cavs, who trailed 50-46 at halftime, with 11 points in the third quarter.
Cleveland led 64-60 with 5:06 left in the third when James got his own rebound off a missed foul shot, put back the rebound and was fouled. His foul shot gave the Cavs an eight-point lead.
Miami narrowed it to 74-72 with 2:06 left in the third quarter on two foul shots by Rafer Alston.
Alston’s first quarter 3-pointer gave him an NBA-high 45 straight games with at least one shot made from beyond the arc. He finished with 16 points.
Miami led 50-46 after a back-and-forth first half, with Jones leading theway with 15 points and Wade adding nine points and five assists.
With the Heat guaranteed a playoff spot, coach Stan Van Gundy must set his playoff roster and faces a decision whether to bring guard Bimbo Coles off the injured list to give the team a third option at point guard. … The Heat opened some 3,000 balcony seats and another 600 standing room only seats … Cleveland forward Carlos Boozer, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds, is guaranteed to average a double-double for the season. He is the first Cavsplayer to do so since Tyrone Hill in 1994-95.