Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Miami Heat: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Miami
In a matchup featuring an unbeaten home team with three of the best players in the league facing a group with only one road win and missing its best player, a fourth consecutive victory seemed to be a foregone conclusion for the Miami Heat.
Apparently, somebody forgot to pass that message along to the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers.
Looking every bit the team that was more pumped in preparation for the game, the Cavaliers attacked the Heat early and often, exploiting Miami's lack of size in the paint and eventually spreading their offense to the perimeter.
And that's when the lethargic Heat's nightmare would really begin.
What was largely a tightly-contested first half quickly became another early warning sign that the Heat were in for a long night, as the Cavaliers closed the half with 10 three-pointers—a theme that had become a calling card in all of Miami's previous losses.
Nevertheless, the Heat entered the third quarter playing with the kind of aggressive demeanor you'd expect from a team that was clearly outperformed by its overmatched opponent. And LeBron James would finally leave his imprint in the game, picking up much of the scoring slack that was primarily carried by Chris Bosh throughout much of the first half.
Feeding off the energy of the crowd and utilizing their championship pedigree against the inexperienced Cavs, the Heat used every weapon at their disposal to eek out a gritty win.
Ultimately, a game-saving three-pointer by Ray Allen and a game-clinching block by Dwyane Wade allowed Miami to compensate for what was an otherwise half-hearted performance that would have probably had a different ending against a more elite team.
Be that as it may, Miami lives to fight another day with its head barely left intact after the 110-108 victory.
Point Guard: Mario Chalmers
Following such a bold claim, Chalmers left a promising early impression with two 11-assist performances during the opening week of the season. Since then, however, Chalmers has been a virtual non-factor in games, struggling to muster the kind of consistency that has eluded him in his first three seasons.
Against the Cavaliers, the same problem continued to fester for 'rio, who was outplayed by Jeremy Pargo for most of the game.
Finishing off the night with four points on 1-of-3 shooting to go along three rebounds, and three assists, count the young point guard among the laundry list of items that will need to improve if Miami hopes to fulfill its repeat ambitions.
Consider that Pargo finished off with 16 points and seven assists against Chalmers' defense.
Imagine what would have been the case if Irving had played? Perhaps a different outcome.
Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade
A game-saving block will certainly make it easier to forget Dwyane Wade's woeful first-half start against the Cavs.
Playing against Dion Waiters, Wade struggled to shoot effectively, finishing with five points on 1-of-5 shooting going into halftime.
At that point, it appeared that Wade was developing a six-game habit of following up strong performances, such as his 28-point performance against the Milwaukee Bucks, with miserable nights.
Nevertheless, he came along strong to begin the third quarter and helped Miami over the waning moments of the game with key defensive plays to help them capture the game.
So, for the moment, things do not look so bleak.
But the question remains: How many of these inconsistent nights can Miami expect from a player that no longer appears to be the second scoring option?
Small Forward: LeBron James
LeBron James started off the game relatively quiet against his former ball club, finishing the first quarter with an unimpressive eight points, one rebound and one assist.
His performance would only improve slightly in the second quarter.
But, as the Heat finally began to match the energy and urgency of the scrappy Cavs in the third quarter, LeBron started attacking the paint and changing the momentum of the game with 14 points to close the period.
Furthermore, he would continue to dissect the Cavaliers on the offensive and defensive end in the last period, making a key layup to jump start what would become a come-from-behind victory.
Finishing off with 30 points, six rebounds and five assists, LeBron's late theatrics managed to overshadow the stability provided throughout the game by counterpart Chris Bosh.
Power Forward: Shane Battier
Battier was arguably the second-most valuable player for the Heat in the first half, making timely threes to help Chris Bosh with the scoring slack.
Defensively, however, he was overmatched against the spry Tristan Thompson, who was able to exploit Battier's size to shoot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field. Battier would eventually leave the game midway due to a collision under the basket.
Nevertheless, the Miami Heat may want to consider expanding their options down low in the future if they hopes to sustain Battier for the playoffs.
Lord knows, it is only going to be a matter of time before guarding bigger guys on a night-to-night basis will lead to injury for the aging veteran.
Such a move would also likely help Miami in the rebounding department as well, where it currently ranks 27th.
Center: Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh single-handedly kept the Heat in the game in the first half, providing the team's lone steady dose of scoring on a night his teammates appeared to be nursing their Thanksgiving break.
Although Bosh's 23 points hardly tell the story of his value in the game, he continued to break new personal records, this time shooting a high of 13 attempts from the free-throw line.
In the featured matchup of the night against Anderson Varejao, Bosh more than held his own, and provided further evidence that he will be Miami's new second scoring option as the season moves further along.
Moreover, he kept Anderson Varejao in check on the defensive end, limiting the big man to 10 points.
All in all, Miami could not have won this game if it weren't for Bosh's consistency throughout the night.
Then again, Bosh's consistency and emergence on this team continues to be the story of the Heat's season.
Sixth Man: Ray Allen
With his second game-winning three pointer of the month and a 17-point performance off the bench, Ray Allen continues to be the Heat's most valuable player outside the Big Three.
Shooting 6-of-11 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the three-point line, Allen was able to establish the same kind of perimeter threat for Miami that was left by Shane Battier prior to his leaving.
Argue if you will whether Allen should deserve a larger role with this team, perhaps at the expense of Mario Chalmers. But the fact remains that Ray has become a staple in crunch time and Miami's most reliable closer at the end of games.
And if you're keeping score, his contribution to the team has been the second biggest revelation thus far this season, beyond what Chris Bosh has been able to achieve.
Not too shabby for a 37-year-old, eh Boston?
Beyond Ray Allen, the Heat got nine points from their bench.
Mike Miller was used sparingly, as he will likely continue to be, in order to preserve his health for the more meaningful moments of the season.
Udonis Haslem finished with two points, further establishing that what he once provided Miami on offense is now strictly reserved for defense, toughness and possibly loyalty.
Finally, Norris Cole only saw a handful of minutes in a game that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra felt became too erratic for the young distributor, who continues to work on his passing precision.
Moving forward, Spoelstra may want to consider adding more depth to his team via the free-agent market so that his team does not wear down over the course of the season.
Especially if Miami plans to preserve its older shooters, such as Miller and Rashard Lewis, the way it seemingly did Saturday night against the Cavs.