LeBron James had few words for his former Cleveland teammates this time.
Dwyane Wade did more than enough talking with his play.
Wade scored 17 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, James added 21 points and a season-high 13 rebounds, and the Miami Heat won their 10th straight game, holding off the Cavaliers 101-95 on Wednesday night.
“It was a good game,” James said. “We executed enough plays down the stretch to help us win. Gut-check? I don’t ever think it got to a gut-check point … but for us, we’re happy that we continued to win and we continued to get better.”
The star duo was silent in on-court words, perhaps, but not in actions. James flexed his arms after getting fouled and scoring on a drive to the basket, Wade did his arms-flailing, “George Jefferson” celebration again, then looked down and screamed at his right hand after hitting a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
But those moments of joy aside, this one wasn’t easy.
Far from it, as James’ former team – which got rolled by 28 in Cleveland on Dec. 2 in the clubs’ first meeting of the season – gave Miami all it wanted this time around.
“We got the win, we won 10 straight and that ultimately is the most important thing. I get it, OK?” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But we also want to make sure that the process that we’ve been talking about, whether we lost or whether we won, that we’re playing to our potential. Cleveland played very well tonight and I do want to give them credit. They competed.”
Chris Bosh scored 16 points for Miami, Mario Chalmers had 14 and James Jones added 11.
Miami failed in its quest to be the fourth NBA team ever to win 10 straight games by at least 10 points. Still, the 10-game winning streak – by any margin – matched the fourth-longest in Heat history. The try for No. 11 comes Friday night in New York against the Knicks.
“I’ve never won 10 games in a row,” Bosh said. “So I’m happy.”
Daniel Gibson scored 26 points for Cleveland, which lost its ninth straight. Anderson Varejao had 18 points and 15 rebounds, Antawn Jamison scored 15 points and Mo Williams added 13 for the Cavs.
“I couldn’t ask for them to play any harder than they played,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “I thought they were terrific effort-wise. They competed for 48 minutes.”
Emotions were nowhere near as high as they were when James appeared in Cleveland for the first time as an opponent on Dec. 2, though there was some tension. At least one skirmish broke out in the stands – a rare occurrence in Miami – during the fourth quarter as Miami pulled away.
On the court, there was some flareups as well. Gibson wrapped up James on a fast break in the fourth quarter, the two friends not exchanging a word. And in the opening minutes, Wade was tackled by Joey Graham while dunking after an assist from James.
Still, this one was nothing like the hyped-for-months matchup in Cleveland two weeks ago that turned into a blowout.
“We had fight in us,” Bosh said. “They had fight, too. We just grinded the game out.”
Miami’s 14-point lead was down to six when Gibson hit a 3-pointer with 2:09 left, and Jamison’s free throws 36 seconds later made it 96-93.
That was Cleveland’s last gasp. Gibson missed a 3-pointer over James with 46 seconds left, Williams missed a long try from the left side with 17 ticks remaining – he finished 1 for 10 from beyond the arc – and Miami escaped.
The mood when the players took the floor was noticably different than the game in Cleveland, when both James and members of the team he left behind were criticized for being, at times, a little too chummy with one another.
No pleasantries this time.
“No talking,” Williams said. “We just played basketball.”
Cleveland’s play was different, too. A 14-2 run midway through the second quarter – capped by Jamison’s 3-pointer with 3 minutes left in the half – put Cleveland up 47-37. It was the first time since losing in Dallas on Nov. 27, 10 games ago, that the Heat faced a double-digit deficit.
For Miami, it was a wake-up call. Chalmers, making his first start of the year because Carlos Arroyo returned to Puerto Rico for a family funeral, hit all four of his shots in the third, three of them from 3-point range.
Miami took a two-point lead into the final 12 minutes – when Wade took over.
He scored Miami’s first seven points of the fourth, then gave Miami a scare when he took a tumble and aggravated his sore left wrist, so much so that he signaled to the Heat bench for a time-out and walked over in obvious pain. On the continuation of that possession, Wade hit a 3-pointer for a nine-point lead, then connected on a 26-foot pullup with 4:22 left for a 95-81 cushion, the biggest of the night.
“Play with any kind of injuries, that’s what you have to do in this league,” Wade said.
NOTES: The Heat won for the 12th straight time when Jones makes at least three 3-pointers, a streak that dates to April 15, 2009. … There were a smattering of “Miami loves you” chants directed toward James again, the continued rebuttal to the “Akron hates you” cries in Cleveland. … Earlier Wednesday, former Heat center and current team executive Alonzo Mourning received the 2010 Community Leadership Award from FBI officials in Miami.
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