CLEVELAND, March 20 (The Sports Xchange) - It would have been the biggest upset of the NBA season. However, the defending NBA champion Miami Heat had other ideas.
MVP candidate LeBron James took over in the fourth quarter, leading the Heat to a 98-95 victory over the upset-minded Cavs on Wednesday before 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Heat (53-14) extended their winning streak to 24 games in a row. Miami hasn’t lost since February 1, a span of 47 days.
James recorded his fourth triple-double of the season with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, all game highs.
The Cavs blew a 27-point lead, the largest in franchise history in a losing effort.
”Down 27, none of us were happy about it,“ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”We caught lightning in a bottle.
“We had to take big home-run plays to get us back in the game. That’s part of our greatness.”
There was a lot of disappointment among the Cavs. They had the Heat on the ropes, but couldn’t put them away.
“I‘m sure everyone in (our) locker room wanted to get it done,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “You have to give the Heat credit. That’s why they’re the defending NBA champion.”
The Cavs (22-46) were playing without Kyrie Irving (sprained left shoulder), Dion Waiters (sore left knee) and Anderson Varejao (knee surgery). However, they led 67-40 with 7 minutes, 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Heat trailed by nine points after three quarters, 77-68. However, James scored 11 of their first 12 points to take control of the contest. They blitzed the Cavs in the fourth, 30-18.
There were two delays in the action. The start of the game was delayed by 35 minutes with moisture on the floor.
“It was weird to have to go back into the locker room,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “We had to come out and warm up again.”
Then, with 8:21 left, a fan came out on the court to greet James wearing a T-shirt that read: “We miss you. Come back 2014.”
“He looked like he had a few too many beers,” Scott said.
James said he didn’t see the guy until it was too late.
“I didn’t see him until he was in my face,” he said. “I had no reaction.”
He said the comeback was fueled by the Heat’s defense. They outscored the Cavs in the second half, 64-40.
“We had to get stops,” James said. “That’s what got us back into the game, getting stops. Shane Battier’s two 3s helped our defense. Tonight our offense helped our defense.”
James said he wasn’t concerned with the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
”The streak wasn’t on my mind,“ he said. ”Getting blown out was on my mind.
“It was a good quality win, especially being down like we were. We were down by 27 with 18 minutes left in the game, but that’s a lifetime.”
Cavs swingman C.J. Miles missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
James dropped in two free throws with 4.7 seconds left, which extended the Heat’s lead to three points.
The Cavs have lost to the Heat three times this season by a combined nine points.
Miami trailed by 21 points at halftime, 55-34. It proved to be the largest halftime deficit from which the Heat has ever come back.
Guard Mario Chalmers contributed 17 points for the Heat, while Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Battier all added 11.
Guard Wayne Ellington had a team-high 20 points for the Cavs, while Thompson finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Center Tyler Zeller had a double-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and a block.
Editing by Julian Linden