Cleveland 92, Miami 91

Save this one on the DVR (or in my case, don’t record over the VHS tape). This was a classic. If you didn’t enjoy this game, never watch basketball ever again, cause there’s not much more you could ask for. The ending was spectacular; down 91-90 with under 1o seconds, LeBron stole Dwyane Wade’s behind-the-back pass, raced down court, got fouled and made both free throws (Wade could’ve/should’ve been called for goal tending for hanging on the rim). The night was full of highlights; Wade went off for 30 in the first half and he and LeBron traded baskets late in the second quarter (in which LeBron dropped 20). All in all, these two put on a spectacular show and the Cavs snuck out of there with a victory (they trailed the whole game until Gibson’s three put them up 76-74 with just under 9 minutes left).

I’m amazed that I continue to be amazed by LeBron James. The dude is just unreal. I simply shake my head and just laugh to myself. I mean, he followed up his game saving block on Kevin Durant by stealing the ball from Dwyane Wade and giving the Cavs the lead on two free throws. The fact that there’s even an argument about on who’s the Best Player in the NBA boggles my mind. James is a absolute monster; Bron-Bron finished with a 32-9-4 and his dunk over Wade (32-10-5) in the second quarter was insane. James wasn’t perfect (there were some bad Le-Iso possessions) and while he didn’t have a field goal in the fourth quarter, he did make all of his free throws in the final period (which proved to be the difference).

Wade played great but man, he gets some ridiculous calls. Yes, LeBron shot more free throws (17) than Wade (16) but from watching the game, you felt like LeBron at least earned his. Wade gets a lot of touch fouls called away from the rim and, at his size, he can careen into people at full speed and end up shooting freebies (whereas if LeBron runs into someone at full speed, he knocks their ass over). Wade torched the Cavs for 30 in the first half but finished with just 32 for the game. I don’t know if Mike Brown actually made an in-game adjustment (not his strong suit) or if Wade’s shot simply stop falling (he made a ton of jumpers early) but the Cavs held Wade in check for the second half (they were doubling him early in the possession and getting the ball out of his hands). Unlike LeBron, Wade didn’t do himself any favors late in the game, missing two freebies with 40 seconds left (would’ve put the Heat up 3) and followed up his turnover and LeBron’s free throws by clanging a jumper off the rim. Not his best ending.

Back-to-back good games from Shaq. O’Neal was a force, scoring 19 points on 9-13 shooting in just 27 minutes. He was effective early on (scoring the Cavs first 8 points) and was a factor late in the game as well (blocking Jermaine O’Neal’s shot with 3 minutes to go and giving the Cavs a 90-89 lead off a jump hook with a minute left). Shaq finished with 19 points, 5 boards and 2 assists. The Cavs still force feed him the ball at times but they’re going to need Shaq to produce with both Mo Williams and Delonte West out with injuries. I don’t know if this means anything, but the Cavs haven’t lost to any of Shaq’s former teams this season.

Daniel Gibson was solid. While he’s still not a point guard, Boobie sure can shoot the hell out of the ball. Gibson finished with 15 and he gave the Cavs their first lead of the night with a triple with about 9 minutes to go. Gibson was 5-10 from the floor and 4-6 from behind the arc but he only had 1 board and 1 assist in his 43(!) minutes of court time. I love his moxie (he’s not afraid to take big shots) but he’s got to give the Cavaliers more than just scoring. At time the Cavs let Anthony Parker have the ball handling duties while Gibson played off ball and ran around screens.

I don’t know when exactly this happened, but Anderson Varejao is a downright crafty offensive player. While Andy’s jumper is still scary, I’ve been really amazed at how he finishes around the basket. Varejao gets himself in great positions to score and his footwork is ridiculous. He finds the holes in a defense and exploits them with an array of hooks, finger rolls and layups. Andy finished 13 points (5-8 FG), 10 boards, 2 assists and a steal. He scored 5 points in the fourth quarter and had a huge three-point play to tie the game at 79.

This team is good, like really really good. The Cavs were without two rotation players, including their second leading scorer (though Jamario Moon returned), they got a combined two points from their starting shooting guard and power forward and yet still pulled out a victory in Miami. They weathered Wade’s early onslaught and they kinda, sorta executed the offense down the stretch (they were throwing Shaq the ball late in the game, which was nice to see). They’re 35-11 and have now won in cities like LA, Orlando, Miami (twice), Atlanta and Portland. They just beat Kobe, Durant and Wade in three straight games, all while shorthanded. Yikes.

and finally…

Dear LeBron and D.Wade, Please never ever join the same team, as it would mean missing out on games like these. Sincerely, NBA Fans. This game was f-u-n. The second quarter was a blast and the ending was amazing. Wade and LeBron bring out the best in each other (there was a palpable buzz in the arena during the second quarter) and it’d be a shame to miss out on that. The basketball fan in me wants to see these guys face off in a seven game series, just to see what would happen (and the Cavs fan in me wants nothing to do with Wade and playoff officials). At 23-21, the Heat are currently 5th in the East but the 8th seed, Charlotte, owns a record of 20-21, so a first round matchup is definitely in play. The Cavs next game is against the Timberwolves at home on Wednesday night.

Cross-posted at Follow me on Twitter @BenCox83

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