Big Three lead way for Heat’s late rally past Cavs

MIAMI — A 19-point third-quarter lead had become a four-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter.

Not exactly the way the Miami Heat planned to begin a five-game homestand following a 2-2 road trip.

But trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers 95-91 with 7:24 left in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, something seemed to get the Heat’s attention.

Something pretty clearcut, in fact.

“Winning and losing,” Dwyane Wade said following Miami’s 114-107 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena. “We had to come back to win the ballgame.

“We’re a team, obviously, that has the ability to take it up a notch. And it helps, as well, because we were at home. But it was between winning and losing, and we wanted to win.”

The Heat also wanted to win at Indiana on Tuesday night, but the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers controlled the last three quarters en route to disposing of the defending NBA champions.

That, combined with a loss at Chicago and wins at Minneapolis and Detroit, made for a .500 road trip.

Knowing that December games for a perennial league power are meant to check and learn about itself, Miami returned home focused on improving in several areas — rebounding and perimeter defense among them.

With three days off and no day-of morning shootaround, the Heat began their homestand opener looking as energetic and productive offensively as they had all season.

His knees clearly having benefited from the time off, Wade scored 20 first-half points to help Miami build a 16-point cushion against Cleveland.

Chris Bosh, looking more active than in recent weeks, had 18 points and six rebounds in the first 24 minutes. LeBron James chipped in with 15 first-half points.

Miami seemed headed for an easy victory to open its homestand — five straight games before a trip to the West Coast.

But in the third quarter, after building a 71-52 lead less than a minute in, the Heat went cold. The Cavaliers outscored Miami 28-16.

What happened?

“That’s a good question. I wish I had that answer, too,” Bosh said. “I think that’s something we have to look back on film and kind of really dissect, see where we’re falling short a little bit because we don’t want to pick up any bad habits.

“We have to be honest with ourselves, look at it and move on from there.”

Wade again was more direct: “They made shots, and we made none.”

Not exactly “none,” but the Heat shot 33 percent in the third quarter after having hit 65 percent (26 of 40) in the first half.

After Cleveland took its 95-91 edge in the fourth, baskets by Wade and James tied it with 6:37 remaining.

Little more than three minutes later, James’ five-foot driving jumper gave Miami a 102-100 lead. Following a Cleveland timeout, James’ nifty passing led to a Norris Cole layup, and two Ray Allen free throws gave Miami a six-point lead with 2:16 left.

“I enjoy passing the ball on the offensive end more than anything — more than scoring, more than ball-handling, more than anything,” James said, “being able to to see my teammates and put them in a position where all they have to do is catch and shoot.”

The Cavaliers failed to get closer than five the rest of the way.

James ended with 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

“I don’t know what I have to do around here. It didn’t happen too much in the past,” James said with a smile. “Sprinkle in a little one assist or one rebound every now then from my home statisticians, but I’ll continue to do what I need to do and continue to be a triple threat for this team.”

Something that should mean more winning than losing for Miami.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas.