Miami wins 11th straight game

Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MIAMI - Heat guard Dwyane Wade is getting stronger - both late in games and also later in the season.
Wade, who started the season at less than 100 percent after last summer's knee surgery, scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to lead Miami to a 109-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami also got 28 points and eight assists from LeBron James, both game-highs. James made 10 of 19 shots, giving him 13 straight games in which he has made at least 50 percent of his shots.
The victory extended the Heat's win streak to 11 games, making the defending NBA champs also the league's hottest team.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was impressed with Wade, who had 33 points in Philadelphia on Saturday night and seemed fresh late Sunday even though this was Miami's fourth game in five nights.
In fact, Wade is averaging 9.9 points in the fourth quarters of his past seven games.
"Dwyane just gets better as the game goes on, and that is symbolic of how his season is going," Spoelstra said. "Every team has to deal with four games in five nights or five in seven. The difference is we have great depth."
That depth was needed because the Heat seemed to wear down in the third quarter, when their 22-point lead evaporated. From the middle of the third quarter to early in the fourth, the Cavaliers put together a 28-6 run to take an 88-83 lead with 9:30 left in the game.
Miami battled back as Shane Battier hit a 3-pointer off a pass from Wade to give the Heat a 103-101 lead with 1:27 left.
The Cavs had two tries to tie the score on their next possession, but Dion Waiters missed a jumper, and, after an offensive rebound by Alonzo Gee, Kyrie Irvin missed as well.
Wade got the defensive rebound, and Chris Bosh found James wide open for a layup attempt. James, shockingly, missed the easy shot, and the ball got batted out to Wade, who drove in for a dunk with 24 seconds left.
"(James) is such a big target, and he was so wide open," Bosh said. "I just tried to make the best play possible."
The Cavaliers never threatened again, and Cleveland coach Byron Scott blamed Battier's 3-pointer and Wade's dunk on defensive breakdowns.
"We had big-time mental mistakes," Scott said. "The two plays that I was very angry about were when Battier got the transition 3-pointer and when Wade snuck past the defense for the (dunk).
"You can't give up easy baskets with a one-point lead. These are things we have to learn from, and they can't happen again, especially this late in the season. We had an opportunity to beat the (NBA) champions, and we lost the game due to mental breakdowns."
Spoelstra, of course, saw the game differently and praised both teams.
"The game had seven or eight games within a game," Spoelstra said. "It was good to see us show resiliency. But they (the Cavs) played well. They kept coming at us. That's a team that has a lot of young players with confidence."
Waiters led the Cavaliers with 26 points, and Irving had 17. C.J. Miles came off the Cavs' bench to score 19 points, making 5 of 9 three-pointers.
Miles had 11 points in the Cavs' third-quarter run, including three 3-pointers in 61 seconds.
"If I get some open looks, I'm going to try to knock them down," Miles said. "My teammates always encourage me to shoot."
Cavs forward Tristan Thompson had 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, marking his 19th double-double of the season.
Miami got key contributions from some of its role players, including Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Battier. Chalmers had 16 points and made 4 of 5 attempts from long range. Allen had 11 points and made all three of his 3-point tries. Battier had 14 points and made 4 of 7 3-pointers.
The Heat, 41-2 since last season when shooting over 50 percent, hit 52 percent of their shots Sunday. The Cavaliers shot an even 50 percent.
The Heat shot a blistering 57.5 percent in the first half, taking a 64-46 lead into the locker room. Miami made 8 of 10 3-pointers in the first half and led by as many as 20 points.
NOTES: Waiters has nine 20-point games in this his rookie season. ... The Cavaliers are without reserve forward Omri Casspi, who complained of stomach pain Saturday and was rushed to a hospital in Orlando. Scott said Casspi had surgery to remove his appendix. ... Heat reserve wing Mike Miller, who missed the past three weeks due to an inner-ear infection, was available Sunday, according to Spoelstra. "He can't hear anything we're saying," Spoelstra said, "but he's back with us." ... Rumors are rampant that James could leave the Heat in the summer of 2014, when he has an opt-out clause in his contract, and return home to Ohio to play once again for the Cavaliers. A year ago, James said a potential return to his home state "would be great. It would be fun to play in front of those fans again. I don't know what the future holds, but I wouldn't take that option out." More recently, James said Heat fans have nothing to worry about "at this time." ... The appeal for James goes beyond coming home. The Cavs have a young point guard, Irving, who is quickly becoming a star. "It was awesome to play with Kyrie," James said at last weekend's All-Star Game. "He's going to be unbelievable."

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