Love carries Cavs past Heat; LeBron ejected
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers rode a red-hot Kevin Love to victory Tuesday, while LeBron James’ own hot streak took him right out of the game.
Love scored a season-high 38 points and the Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat 108-97, but this one forever will be remembered as the first time in 1,082 career games James was ejected.
James was tossed with 1:59 left in the third quarter for arguing a non-call with referee Kane Fitzgerald. James screamed at Fitzgerald for not calling a foul against Hassan Whiteside on James’ drive to the hoop.
“I got fouled and I showed my frustrations to the ref and he sent me to the locker room,” said James, who finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Fitzgerald, who is 36 and in his ninth NBA season, said to a pool reporter that James’ ejection was “a culmination of a couple different acts.
“Immediately after the no-call, he turned and threw an air punch directly at me and then he aggressively charged at me and then he used vulgarity in my ear a few times,” Fitzgerald said.
James said he was “surprised” over the ejection because “I said what I had to say and I was moving on and he decided to throw me out,” though James incorrectly thought Fitzgerald assessed him two technicals.
Nope. Fitzgerald slapped him with one tech and then turned and tossed him.
“Yup. Should have got thrown out,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
James’ teammate, Dwyane Wade, was a little more diplomatic.
“I mean, I just thought it was quick,” Wade said. “I mean, a player like him, you give him the benefit of the doubt.”
The Cavs, who led the game by as many as 34 points, have won nine straight for their longest regular-season winning streak since Jan. 15-Feb. 5, 2015. The run began after they started the year 5-7.
The Heat had their three-game winning streak snapped. Dion Waiters led the Heat with 21 points on the night, and Bam Adebayo scored 19. Josh Richardson added 15, but Goran Dragic was limited to seven points on 1-of-5 shooting.
“It started right from the beginning, we were on our heels and they felt like a different level than us tonight,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Wade, who like James once starred with the Heat, scored 17 points off the Cleveland bench, including eight in the fourth quarter with James in the showers.
The Cavs set a season high with 75 points in the first half.
Tuesday marked the first time Spoelstra went against James and Wade at the same time. The two played for him on the Heat and went to four consecutive NBA Finals from 2011-14.
“Yeah, when you see these guys in different uniforms it’s always like, ‘Really, that looks strange,’” Spoelstra said. “This league changes year to year. We’ve been through a myriad of changes the last five years. A lot of new faces here. I love the team that we have in that locker room.”
Love’s 32 points were tied for the most by an opponent in a half in Miami history. He added nine rebounds for the game and shot 14 of 17 from the foul line in 26 minutes.
Love scored 22 in the first quarter alone. On Nov. 23, 2016, he set an NBA record with 34 in the first quarter against Portland. He finished with 40 points that night.
“(It was) a little bit different just because (against) Portland I hit seven or eight 3s in that first quarter,” Love said. “That’s tough to do again. It’s not easy. But as far as the aggressiveness of all of our guys and myself included, it was a big quarter for us.”
Cleveland led by as many as 18 in the first quarter and was up 35-24 when it was over. Waiters scored 13 in the first.
NOTES: Cavs G Iman Shumpert (left knee soreness) missed Tuesday’s game. He played seven minutes Monday in a win in Philadelphia, but coach Tyronn Lue said Shumpert “felt fine, and then once he played those minutes he said he didn’t feel right.” Shumpert had missed three games with the injury prior to Monday night. ... Lue said the next step in Cavs G Isaiah Thomas’ road to a return is for the injured All-Star to play two-on-two and three-on-three at practice, but there was no timetable for that yet. Thomas hasn’t played this season because of a torn labrum and other right hip injuries. ... Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said David Fizdale, his former assistant who was fired as Memphis’ coach Monday, would not be rejoining the Heat staff. “He’s a head coach,” Spoelstra said. ... The Heat finishes their four-game road trip Wednesday in New York.