Midway through the third quarter, with his team’s lethargy reaching the point where he was forced to call plays from the bench, Erik Spoelstra informed his team to run, “C-Rip.”
Most of the way in this one, the Heat played like “C-rap.”
The difference between this slop and similar slop Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks is Spoelstra’s team somehow found a way to turn something equally ugly into a 92-85 victory Tuesday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“It wasn’t an all-together smoothly played game,” Spoelstra understated, “but there, at the end, regardless of how you get there, we were able to get a handful of stops and then able to execute down the stretch.”
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In a game that required a bailout 29-foot 3-point shot by LeBron James to beat the 24-second clock at one stage in the third quarter and a Chris Bosh corner 3-pointer late in the fourth, the Heat overcame a deplorable first half and 18 turnovers to close their five-game homestand at 4-1, with each game played in the injury absence of Dwyane Wade.
“Finally, in the last three or four minutes, the ball began to move,” Spoelstra said.
“So we’ll take it.”
Bosh led the Heat with 35 points, again stepping up as a scorer amid Wade’s absence. It was his high as a member of the Heat and fourth 30-point game of the season, after recording three last season, his first with the team.
“He’s a very cerebral player,” Spoelstra said, “so he knows what we need when we need it.
“We need some scoring with Dwyane out and he’s able to do it within the context of our offense.”
Bosh scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, one off his career high for a fourth quarter.
“My teammates found me in the right spots,” Bosh said. “I just wanted to make sure to pull the trigger without hesitating.”
James added 18 points, now 4-1 against Cleveland since leaving the Cavaliers as a free agent in July 2010. But, unlike Bosh, he once again struggled in a fourth quarter, this time 1 of 5 from the field and 0 for 1 from the line in the final period.
“I didn’t have a rhythm offensively,” he said. “Every time I got the ball, they doubled me. But that’s why I have my teammates.”
And why he needed the best of Bosh.
“I think he had to make the biggest adjustment with this whole situation,” James said of playing as part of a Big Three. “We’ve seen him do this in Toronto.”
No. 1 overall draft pick Kyrie Irving was unimpressive early for Cleveland, shooting 1 for 4 in the first half, before coming around to close with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. His 3-pointer with 13.3 seconds to play drew Cleveland within 86-83.
From there, Bosh was fouled with 12.4 seconds to play, converting both free throws. Irving followed with a layup with 9.1 seconds to play to draw Cleveland within 88-85. Heat point guard Mario Chalmers then made a pair of free throws with 8.4 seconds left to make it 90-85.
At one point in the fourth quarter, after getting a pass from Norris Cole late in the shot clock, which led to a turnover, James turned and bereted the rookie point guard, “Shoot it!”