Wrap-Up — At one point this season, it seemed like the Cavaliers would cruise to the Conference’s top spot – using the final week of the season to rest and re-calibrate for the Playoffs.
Instead, it’s been a drama-filled final few games, with a big blowout win in Boston followed by a clunker at The Q and, in their final two road contests of the season, a pair of overtime losses – capped by Monday night’s 124-121 heartbreaker on South Beach.
With two-thirds of their Big Three– LeBron James and Kyrie Irving – on the shelf, plus Tristan Thompson missing his fourth straight game, the shorthanded Cavaliers, led by Deron Williams, turned in a valiant effort and were sharp for three quarters.
But once again they surrendered a double-digit fourth quarter lead and dropped their 13th straight game in Miami – a streak that dates back to late January 2010.
Despite giving James and Irving the night off to nurse some nagging injuries, the Wine and Gold got off to a solid start – leading by 13 points after one quarter and building it back up to 11 after three.
But the Heat – led by James Johnson and former Cavalier Wayne Ellington – chipped away in the fourth quarter, with Goran Dragic knotting the game at 108-apiece with just under a minute to play in regulation.
In the extra-session, the Cavaliers squandered a pair of four-point plays and Tyler Johnson scored eight of his team-high 24 points, including the final four points of the game from the stripe in the final 30 seconds of play.
Deron Williams had both his best game as a Cavalier and best individual performance in almost four years – leading both squads with 35 points on 14-for-25 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.
With Kyrie out for the night and Kay Felder suffering a fourth quarter leg injury, Williams logged 46 minutes in Monday’s loss, adding a team-best nine assists, seven boards, a steal and a blocked shot. The heavy work load also likely added to Williams committing 10 of Cleveland’s 21 miscues on the night.
Kevin Love, listed as questionable earlier in the day, suited up and tallied his seventh straight double-double – finishing with 25 points and a team-high 10 boards, going 8-for-18 from the floor and 8-of-8 from the stripe before fouling out in overtime.
Kevin Love records his 7th straight double-double and DWill goes off for a season-high 35 points.
Channing Frye was once again impressive subbing for Tristan Thompson in the middle – tallying 21 points, seven boards and a block, going 6-of-10 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from long-range.
Kyle Korver also continued finding his rhythm heading into the postseason – coming off the bench to net 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting, including 4-of-8 from deep to go with eight boards and a steal.
Hassan Whiteside, the league’s leading rebounder, doubled-up for Miami – which kept its Playoff hopes alive with the win – finishing with 23 points and a game-high 18 boards.
Even with Whiteside’s big effort on the glass, the Cavaliers managed to outrebound the Heat by one, 47-46. Cleveland canned 14 triples and was 19-of-22 from the stripe. But their 21 turnovers that led to 23 Miami points contributed to the Cavs’ straight loss.
Turning Point — Monday’s game had some wild twists and turns at the end of regulation and into the overtime period. But, not unlike Sunday’s defeat in Atlanta, it was the start of the fourth quarter that precipitated Cleveland’s unraveling.
the Cavaliers came into the fourth quarter leading by 11 points – having built a big early lead and warding off the Heat through three periods. But Miami scored the first nine points of the period, cutting Cleveland’s lead to two and giving the docile American Airlines Arena crowd new life.
By the 8:46 mark, the game was tied – and the night’s event sorted themselves out from there.
By the Numbers – 18.9, 12.7 … Kevin Love’s scoring and rebounding averages over his last seven games – notching his 41st double-double of the season on Monday night and grabbing at least 15 boards in three of his last four outings.
Quotable – Deron Williams, on shouldering the load on Monday night …
”It was tough. I haven’t played that many minutes in a while. When (Kay Felder) went out and I had to play pretty much the whole second half and overtime; it was definitely tough on me. It’s just part of the game. LeBron had to play 50-something (minutes) the other night, so I can’t feel too bad for myself.”
Up Next — With Monday night’s defeat, the Wine and Gold close out the 2016-17 regular season with a road record of 20-21. They’ll try to make it 32-9 at home when they welcome the Raptors to town on Wednesday for Fan Appreciation Night. Regardless of what happens in either Cleveland or Boston on Wednesday night, the Wine and Gold will begin their title defense this weekend when they host Game 1 of the First Round at The Q.
Calls of the Game