You can’t shoot 24-for-33 on free throws and expect to hold a lead against the defending champions. But that’s what the Cavaliers did Saturday at Miami, and guess what? It failed.
Instead, Ray Allen (surprise, surprise) buried a three-pointer with 18.2 seconds left and the Heat rallied from a seven-point deficit with 1:52 left to top the Cavs, 110-108.
The Cavs (3-10) lost two games in Florida in two nights by a combined six points. Neither time did they have Kyrie Irving, who’s out at least another two weeks with a broken finger.
Neither time did they do the little things (read: make enough foul shots) that win games. So no Kyrie, but no excuses, either.
“We played hard coming off back-to-back and our guys showed a lot of guts, but little things are killing us,” Cavs coach Byron Scott told reporters in Miami. “We just haven’t figured out how to win, and we did a couple of bonehead things toward the end of the game.”
Allen finished with 17 points off the bench, hitting the biggest of shots on what was an otherwise slow night for the Heat. Without him, they seemed to have little chance, despite LeBron James’ 30 points. James was huge, no doubt. But the 37-year old Allen was the difference-maker — and showed why it made great sense for the Heat to sign him away from Boston in the off-season.
The Cavs had a chance to tie at the end, but Jeremy Pargo’s drive was swatted away by Dwyane Wade. They got the ball back with 0.6 seconds after Allen split a pair of free throws, but failed to get off a shot off an inbounds play.
Sadly, the Cavs led the majority of the game, including an 11-point edge (59-48) at halftime. They went 10-for-19 on three-pointers in the first two quarters, controlled the pace and seemed primed to hand the Heat (10-3) their first home loss of the season.
They even withstood a couple of Heat runs in the second half, then took back and increased the lead. But it was that final Heat run that doomed them.
Eight Cavs hit double-figures in scoring, with Pargo and Dion Waiters leading the way at 16 points apiece. Waiters committed just one turnover in 38 minutes, one night after committing none against Orlando in 37 minutes.
Omri Casspi added 15 points off the bench (including 4-for-6 shooting on threes) and is clearly playing with more confidence lately. Meanwhile, Anderson Varejao finished with 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double and eighth of the season.
Also, Tristan Thompson gave perhaps his best all-around performance of the year with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
The Heat also received 23 points from Chris Bosh and 18 from Wade. Heat forward Shane Battier left the game in third quarter with a sprained right knee.
Cleveland concludes its three-game trip through the South at Memphis on Monday. Amazingly, the Heat are off until Thursday’s home game against San Antonio.
“It’s like the All-Star break,” said Heat forward Rashard Lewis.