CLEVELAND — The scoreboard malfunctioned, delaying tip-off of the Miami-Cleveland game by 35 minutes.
The Cavaliers built a 27-point lead in the third quarter. At home.
A fan sporting a T-shirt that begged Heat star LeBron James to return to the Cavs ran onto the floor in the fourth quarter.
And yet here we are, the Heat’s winning streak at 24 games, courtesy of a 98-95 victory. It’s easy to understand why James used words like “bizarre” and “unique” to describe the day.
It’s easy to believe James when he says the Heat have won games of “all shapes and sizes” during this historic run.
It’s easy to think that sometimes, the Heat are just toying with dudes along the way.
The Heat are more than just a professional basketball team. They’re a happening. They’re indestructible. They’re so much better than you, it can make your stomach churn and your hand toss the remote control through your television set.
But they can also make you stop, drop and admire.
Without question, James fronts this band of basketball rock stars, the lead guitarist and vocalist who keeps fans on the edge of their seats like an encore at Beatles reunion show.
Even when the Heat are bad, they find a way.
Shane Battier buries a three — bam!
Ray Allen follows with another — kapow!
LeBron barrels toward the basket, cocks the ball behind his head and throws it down — blamo!
The Heat are Batman. You’re the Joker. Or anymore, just the punchline of a joke that’s not funny to anyone but the men in black and red.
“All we have to do is a get a couple of stops,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade. “Get a couple of buckets.”
Yeah, that’s about all it takes.
“The mentality changes on both sides,” Wade added.
Man, does it ever.
Wade scored just 11 points, four in the second half, but he barely needed to touch the ball. The Heat overcame a 21-point halftime deficit (a franchise record) simply by locking down on defense and letting LeBron doing his thing — drive, dish and defy the odds of defeat.
James charged to the hoop, the Cavs’ defense collapsing around him, then kicked it out to Allen, Battier and Mario Chalmers who spotted up beyond the three-point line.
In the first half, they missed.
At winning time, they calmly stroked it home.
When the Cavs snuck toward the perimeter, James just finished with a layup or a foul. In the end, he all but iced it in front of his former fans and current haters by sinking a pair of free throws.
In the end, he finished with game-highs of 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season.
Basically, this just isn’t fair anymore. It never really was. But at least the Heat used to lose once in a while. At least they looked beatable during the regular season.
Pretty soon, some team (several, actually) will have to try to beat them four out of seven.
It can happen, but most likely only if that crazy fan gets his wish, and James really does return to Cleveland someday.
Until then, not even the bizarre and unique can stop this bunch.
Until then, the Heat will likely continue to just stroll right through these games of all shapes and sizes. Until then, they’ll just keep compiling the only shape and size that matters.
And that, lovers and haters, would be a big fat “W.”