Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Miami
A few of South Beach's finest traveled to Ohio and emerged with a 96-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Though this one almost got away from the Heat in the latter four minutes, they had the game in hand for nearly four full quarters.
A good way to snag a shorthanded win—even against lottery-bound factions—is to shamelessly jack up three-pointers and then convert on said deep balls. Miami did just this, going 13-of-28 from behind the arc.
This wasn't a conventional victory by any means. The absence of any fast-break points on the Heat's behalf tells us that much.
But it was still a win.
Point Guard: Norris Cole
Who needs LeBron James when you have Norris Cole?
The fact that I'm only half kidding should shock the hell out of you.
Cole put forth an immaculate effort in this one. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double, posting 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He hit on 50 percent of his shots from the floor (6-of-12) and did a spectacular job running the offense.
Few players on the Heat are as active defensively as Cole is on a game-by-game basis. He's excellent at reading rotations and forcing opponents to the weak side, and his ability to change directions makes him tough to pass. It also gives more of an opportunity to block shots; he had one here.
After missing two free throws, Cole's greatest contribution came in the waning seconds of the game. Cleveland was down by one with the ball, and he came up with a monstrous steal. He is (and I'm not just saying this) one of the more understated off-ball defenders in the game.
Four turnovers and two botch free throws down the stretch normally wouldn't warrant an "A+," but hey, even LeBron caroms attempts from the charity stripe off the rim.
And excluding those four turnovers, this was a very LeBron-esque performance by Cole.
Shooting Guard: Mike Miller
And to think, some thought Mike Miller should've retired after the Heat's championship run this season.
Miller didn't have the type of game that would draw too much attention, but it was a sound performance nonetheless. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, also grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out three assists.
Though nine of Miller's 11 points came off threes, his one basket that came at the rim was reminiscent of the Mike Miller with the Memphis Grizzlies. Points off the dribble are few and far between for the veteran shooting guard at this stage of his career, but when he travels back in time, man is it fun to watch.
If you wanted to see a game where Miller got to play some point as well, this was it. He helped push the tempo for the Heat (even though they finished with zero fast-break points) while also ensuring they ran some structured sets.
Miller continues to play spotty defense, especially when he's tasked with closing out on shooters, but much like Ray Allen (spoiler) his struggles are exacerbated.
Credit Miller with another vintage-like performance.
Small Forward: Rashard Lewis
Let's be clear: Rashard Lewis played a good game. A really good game. But it could have been better.
He shot 5-of-13 from the field for 19 points. While he did settle for a vast array of jumpers (seven treys), he could be found attacking the rim and getting to the charity stripe (6-of-9 from the foul line).
On defense, he wasn't great, but he wasn't terrible either. He read some sets to perfection and did an adequate job on his rotations. His heightened engagement earned him one steal and one block.
Outside of his shot selection and general inaccuracy, my biggest problem was with his rebounding. I understand he's not 25 anymore, but at 6'10" and playing 32 minutes, most of which came at the 3, he should have grabbed more than three boards.
Lewis has a knack for retreating to the offensive side upon the opposition's shot release instead of boxing out. Knowing that he was going up against smaller wings (for the most part) he should have done a better job helping Miami overpower Cleveland on the glass.
If only for one night, though, we were reminded that Lewis could score in volume.
Power Forward: Juwan Howard
Yeah, this guy is still in the league.
Coming into this game, Juwan Howard had logged 14 total minutes on the season. He exceeded that here, logging 19. Granted, he was watching from his couch for most of the year, but still.
I liked what I saw from Howard in terms of aggressiveness. He took seven shots and, for a brief moment in the third quarter, resembled the Howard of 10 years ago when he took his man off the dribble for a crafty two.
Outside of sheer will, there wasn't much to love. You could respect his efforts, but he was rusty and, while cruel, visibly old.
Howard struggled to battle in the post for rebounds and was at least two steps behind when protecting the rim. He finished with three fouls.
We're not here to castigate Howard, though. If this were college (or high school), he'd have received a passing grade.
At 40, and with nearly 20 years of miles on those legs of his, that's pretty damn good.
Center: Joel Anthony
In the interest of full disclosure, I almost gave Joel Anthony an "A+" after watching him drill a fourth-quarter jumper. With that in mind, I doubt he (or any of his adoring fans) will complain about the grade.
Anthony finished with 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the floor. He also pitched in nine rebounds and two blocks.
For a player who hasn't seen much action this season (8.9 minutes per game), Anthony's timing on the defensive end was surprisingly precise. He also came out with an actual touch around the rim, almost like he was aware of where he was on the floor.
In the midst of a stellar performance, there were traces of why Anthony has been buried on the bench.
What stood out most was his lack of awareness off the ball on offense. He made some nice moves to the basket, but when he sets screens, he doesn't maintain his posture long enough.
Not only does this culminate in an excessive number of offensive fouls, but they're soft, and don't create as much space for the ball-handler as they should.
Still, Anthony had a very un-Anthony game. Which is awesome.
Sixth Man: Ray Allen
Ray Allen didn't play much (28 minutes and 40 seconds) and his shot wasn't falling, but he was still somewhat effective.
Though Allen hit just 3-of-11 from the floor, he dished out six assists. Aside from a few possessions when he took too much time off the shot clock and his four turnovers, he did a nice job driving-and-kicking and creating scoring opportunities for his teammates.
A Jesus Shuttlesworth that doesn't score isn't one we're used to seeing, but the prospect of Miami's sixth man becoming more of a passer in general, not just in garbage games, is intriguing.
When you play on a team that houses LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, there aren't going to be many shots to go around. Come playoff time, when rotations are shortened and Allen spends even more time alongside the terrific trio, there will be even fewer scoring opportunities.
Emerging as a greater passing threat will allow him to stay involved while also forcing defenses to adjust. He'd be the ultimate floor spacer.
Defensively, Allen is still having issues. They're not as glaring as some would project, but he does cheat to the strong side much too often. Against dextrous ball-handlers, this can prove problematic. A simple left-handed shift can result in a relatively clear path to the basket.
While I just spent a good few seconds admiring Allen's willingness to facilitate, the Heat are also going to want to see that shot of his fall more than it did in Cleveland.
He may not get as many shots in the playoffs, but the ones he takes, the Heat are going to want him to hit.
Rest of Bench
It doesn't seem possible, but the Heat do have more than six other available players available even after sitting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Chris Andersen provided some solid minutes off the pine, as has become the norm. In just 17 minutes of play he grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots. He went 2-of-2 from the field for seven points and dished out two assists as well.
Something to keep an eye on is how much Erik Spoelstra uses him in the playoffs. He's somewhat of a liability at the free-throw line (2-of-4) and while the Heat could use his defense late in games, Hack-a-Birdman would make for some interesting endings.
I thought it was great that Jarvis Varnado received some burn (15), but he didn't do anything to impress. He corralled a few nice rebounds (four), but otherwise, he looked like a guy who hasn't played much over the last year (oh wait...)
How about James Jones, though?
He knocked down 5-of-9 shots from the floor for 14 points, and he did a nice job keeping his defender honest, varying between some rim attacks and jumpers. He also handed out three assists.
That his defense was upstanding is cause for celebration as well. And when I say "cause for celebration," I mean bubbly, confetti and the whole nine. He blocked two shots and read rotations properly. It was an out-of-body defensive performance from him.
After watching this game, I can't help but think that the Heat are even deeper than advertised.