NBA Game Summary - Miami at Cleveland
(Tuesday, December 25th)
Final Score: Cleveland 96, Miami 82
Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - LeBron James felt the Christmas spirit, dishing out 12 assists while pouring in 25 points, as the Cleveland Cavaliers used a big run late in the third quarter to top the Miami Heat, 96-82, in a battle between the last two Eastern Conference champions.
Drew Gooden contributed 18 points and nine rebounds for the Cavs, which hosted a Christmas Day game for the first time since the 1984-85 season. Daniel Gibson added 16 points, including making 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Anderson Varejao finished with 15 points and grabbed seven boards, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 13 points to go with eight rebounds.
"We were in tune defensively," Gibson said. "We wanted to get stops, and when we get stops we are very good at running out. We held them to 14 points in the third quarter. It enabled us to get out and do what we had to do on the offensive end."
Dwyane Wade led the way with 22 points and eight assists for the Heat, snapping a three-game Christmas Day win streak. Ricky Davis scored 15 and Shaquille O'Neal had 13 points and nine boards, though he did avoid fouling out for what would have been a career-high sixth consecutive game. O'Neal sat out the final 6:57 with five personals.
At 8-20, the Heat have the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
"I think we were very, very careless with the ball," O'Neal said. "We had 10 turnovers (third quarter), our defense got loosened up a little bit and they were able to score a lot of points in the paint. As soon as we're able to figure out and take care of those things, maybe we can become a pretty good team."
The Cavaliers used a 15-0 streak to break the game open and regain the lead. James jumped in front of a pass by Udonis Haslem and ran out ahead all alone on a breakaway, finishing with a commanding one-handed slam to cap the burst. That moved the Cleveland to 67-59 with 1:48 to play in the third quarter.
In the final period, Varejao hit a reverse layup with 6:13 remaining to close out a 10-3 Cavs run. Cleveland extended its lead to 86-72 at that point, and Miami never came closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Both of the former East champs have lost 10 of their last 14 games. The Heat are especially reeling, as the defeat made them the first Eastern Conference team to accumulate 20 losses this season.
Cleveland got off to a quick start with an 11-2 run early in the opening period. Larry Hughes capped it off, nailing a jumper off a feed from James, who highlighted the run with three assists over the Cavs' first six field goals, to go with a powerful reverse slam from the baseline that opened the day's scoring. Cleveland led 13-4 with 8:57 remaining in the first quarter.
James finished out the period on the pine, subbing out at 1:53 after being called for his second foul, this one on the offensive end. Still, he ended the quarter with seven points, four assists and three boards, as the Cavaliers took a 25-17 lead into the second quarter.
The Heat climbed to within three when Earl Barron's free-throw finished a 9-2 scoring streak. Barron was fouled by Dwayne Jones as he hit a reverse layup, and proceeded to connect from the charity stripe. With 5:59 to play in the half, Miami trailed 32-29.
After Ilgauskas missed his second of two free throws for the Cavs, Varejao was whistled for a loose-ball foul, sending Miami's Mark Blount to the line at the other end. Blount stroked both shots from the stripe, and the Heat notched their first lead of the contest, 40-39, with 2:20 left until the break.
Knotted at 41, Miami closed out the half on a 6-2 run, taking a 47-43 lead into the locker rooms. Wade came off the baseline to beat the buzzer as he sank a reverse put-back after Luke Jackson missed a driving floater. The play was reviewed, and confirmed that the ball did leave Wade's hands before time expired.
The Heat carried the momentum into the second half, coming out of the break on a 6-0 run to grab a 10 point advantage, 53-43. With 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, Haslem drained a layup, closing out the streak.
"We just turned the ball over and let them back in the game," Wade said. "Any home team that gets momentum is going to take advantage of it. We turned it over and they got some easy buckets and they got their rhythm and momentum and started running their offense."
Cleveland responded immediately, ripping off a 9-2 run of its own to once again make it a one possession game. Hughes found Sasha Pavlovic for an alley- oop dunk with 7:39 remaining in the third period, bringing the score to 55-52 in favor of Miami.
A Davis bank shot expanded the margin to 59-52 before James started Cleveland's huge run with a layup. Gooden's reverse jam gave the Cavs the lead for good at 60-59, and after a Varejao tip shot, Gibson named a three-pointer.
"As long as we continue to try and embrace our identity, which is getting stops, I think offensively, we've made some improvements," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "We had 23 assists, we got to the free throw line 34 times, but as long as we continue to try and embrace our identity which is on the defensive end of the floor, we're going to gain confidence and we're going to become a better team because of that because we'll have something to hang our hat on."
This was the initial meeting of the season between the Heat and Cavs. Miami went 3-1 versus Cleveland last year...The Heat have lost four of its last six contests at Cleveland...Miami, which had a buzzer-beating win in its last game, has won consecutive games just once all season...The Cavs improved to 8-6 at home...Miami shot 56 percent from the field in the second quarter, but just 54.3 percent during the game at the free-throw line...Cleveland outscored Miami 53-35 in the second half.
12/25 19:29:10 ET