CLEVELAND - Heat guard Norris Cole came within a whisker of his first career triple-double. But the play everyone will remember was his strip of Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving with three seconds left in Miami's 96-95 victory over Cleveland on Monday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Heat were clinging to a one-point advantage, largely because Cole missed two free throws with 14.2 seconds remaining.
"I can't say I forgot the free throws, but I really wanted to make up for missing them," Cole said. "This team always does what it takes to win."
There was no question who would take the last shot for the Cavs.
"I was trying to win the game," Irving said. "He got his hand on the ball. It was a good defensive play. He read it well."
The official play-by-play sheet credited Irving with a missed 18-foot jumper and a block by the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Cole. To the naked eye, it appeared to be a strip.
"Norris Cole made a great play at the end," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "We wanted to get ball in Ky's hands and put him in the middle of the floor. We didn't want to run the pick-and-roll because they were going to trap him.
"So, (Irving) against Norris was a good matchup, and we'll see what happens. Like I said, Norris made a great play."
Cole flirted with his first career triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He made 6-of-12 from the field.
"For two years, he's just made steady progress," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's only about winning."
Cole said he was aware of how close he was to the triple-double.
"I don't watch the scoreboard, but we have good teammates," he said. "I was close and they told me."
Irving had 16 points and eight assists for the Cavs. He made just 7-of-19 shots from the field.
The Heat (65-16) were playing without their top six players, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Yet, it didn't prevent them from winning their league-high seventh game in a row. They've also won 36 of their last 38 games.
"There were still a lot of good players," Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson said. "They are not scrubs. They came out and beat us."
Miami will host Milwaukee in the first round of the playoffs this weekend.
It could have been Scott's final game at The Q. He said, in his mind, he'll be back.
"I will be back next year," Scott said.
Have you been told that?
"I have a year left on my contract," he said. "That's how I approach it."
Irving said he wants Scott to return next season.
"Absolutely, I want Coach Scott back," he said.
Thompson recorded his 31st double-double with 16 points, a game-high 13 rebounds and two blocks.
Guard Dion Waiters also had 16 points, 12 in the second quarter. His most memorable play came on a ferocious dunk over Heat forward Chris Andersen.
The Cavs have lost five in a row, as well as 15 of their last 17. They close out the regular season -- and possibly Scott's career in Cleveland -- at Charlotte on Wednesday.
Forward Rashard Lewis paced the Heat with 19 points, while swingman James Jones added 14 points. Center Joel Anthony had 11 points and had a season-high nine rebounds.
The Heat had an 80-71 lead after three quarters.
After the last play, Irving ran off the court to seek medical treatment, blowing off the jersey and shoe giveaway on Fan Appreciation Night.
As the media was waiting for Irving to get dressed, a team spokesman announced that Irving had a bruised right heel.
"Was someone going to tell me?" he joked. "I'm hurt again. Four-to-six weeks."
It might all be a hoax.
"They say I have a bruised heel," Irving said. "I'm fine."
The difference in the game was the Heat's 3-point prowess. They made 13-of-28 from behind the arc, compared to the Cavs' 5-of-13.
"They are a 3-point shooting team," Scott said. "Give them any room, they'll shoot 3s. They are a great passing team. They find the open man."
Notes: Scott held a shootaround on Monday, even though the Cavs were in the midst of a back-to-back. "I'm not throwing in the towel," Scott said. "I want them to know the season is not over." ... Spoelstra said he didn't ask James if he wanted to play or not. ... James has been bothered by a sore hamstring. "He had some tightness after last night," Spoelstra said. ... If James' season is over, as expected, he averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists. He shot a career-high 56.5 percent from the field. "He's in the physical prime of his career," Spoelstra said. "Who knows how much better he can be." ... Cavs swingman C.J. Miles remains out of the lineup with a concussion. He's nearing the last step of the NBA protocol guidelines, but he's running out of time to play this season. "He still has to go through some contact," Scott said. ... Cavs power forward Luke Walton (sprained ankle) also missed the game.