MIAMI — On a night LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sat out to rest, the Heat’s starters earned the right to rest in the fourth quarter.
Miami (29-34) blew out a shorthanded Cleveland team 120-92 on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The win helped to erase some the pain from Friday’s disappointing loss to the Magic.
“It’s the NBA, man. If they’re tired and they have to sit, so be it,” Heat forward James Johnson said. “We didn’t think nothing of it. It was a bounce-back game for us and we really needed it.”
With a 101-75 lead entering the fourth quarter, the Heat were able to keep most of their starting lineup on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
The Heat’s offense put up a lot of points with the help of incredible shooting from 3-point range. Miami shot 18-of-34 from three.
It was another balanced offensive effort from the Heat, as 11 players scored. Goran Dragic led the way with 23 points and five assists, and Hassan Whiteside added 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Without Kevin Love, James or Irving, Channing Frye scored a team-high 21 points for the Cavaliers (42-19).
The game didn’t end without some fireworks, though. The teams exchanged words near Cleveland’s bench with Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith throwing curses at each other in the final seconds of the contest.
This verbal altercation creates another interesting storyline between these two teams as the Heat and Cavaliers face off again Monday in Cleveland.
Here are our five takeaways from the game …
Three or bust: It was a night full of threes for the Heat’s offense. Miami made 52.9 percent of its 3-point shots Saturday. That hot shooting helped the Heat finish with an overall shooting percentage of 52.3 percent. Miami sharpshooters Luke Babbitt and Wayne Ellington lived up that title. Babbitt shot 3-of-4 from deep and Ellington made 4-of-7 3-pointers. With 18 threes, the Heat outscored the Cavaliers by 21 points from long range.
“When the ball moves and our 3-point shooters are open as a result of that ball movement, we want those guys launching them and we want them having a free, aggressive mind,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Babbitt and Ellington.
No help in the playoff race: With just 19 games remaining after Saturday’s win and Miami very much in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the standings are becoming a daily conversation. Even after beating the Cavaliers, the Heat didn’t improve their position in the standings. That’s because Saturday night also included a Pistons win over the 76ers. So the Heat are still 1.5 games out of the East’s final playoff spot occupied by Detroit.
The efficient Goran Dragic: Just hours after an inefficient 3-of-14 performance against Orlando on Friday night, the efficient Dragic was back on the court Saturday. Miami’s starting point guard finished with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Dragic has had a lot more efficient games than inefficient ones, as he’s made at least 60 percent of his shots in 10 games this season. He’s shooting 48.4 percent for the season.
Bounce-back game: A night after making 1-of-11 shots in Friday’s loss to the Magic, Dion Waiters scored eight points on 3-of-10 shooting Saturday. But it’s not as bad as it looks, as he made three of his final five shots after missing his first five shots against Cleveland. It’s been a while since Waiters hit a shooting drought. Before this two-game cold stretch, he was shooting 48.6 percent from the field over a 15-game stretch. It was one of the best stretches of Waiters’ NBA career, as he was even named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time in his career during this 40-day span.
“Stuff happens in this league and you deal with it,” Spoelstra said of Waiters’ recent shooting slump. “There’s so many ways you can impact winning. I told him that at halftime, ‘Just play hard and make winning plays and things will change for you.’ It’s amazing how the karma changes when you start concentrating on effort, energy, toughness, physicality. And then he did, and all of a sudden the ball finds him and he makes some shots.”
Shorthanded Cavs: The Heat faced a shorthanded Cavaliers roster Saturday. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did not play against Miami for rest purposes. The news came a night after James played 39 minutes and Irving played 36 minutes in a win over the Hawks. This left the Cavaliers without three of their All-Stars, as forward Kevin Love is still out after knee surgery. The Cavaliers have still not won a game in Miami since James returned to Cleveland in the summer of 2014. Since then, the Heat are 5-0 at home against the Cavaliers.