The Cleveland Cavaliers already had two valiant efforts in two losses against the Miami Heat this season, and Tuesday they added a third. LeBron James poured in 43 points, but the Heat needed his free throws in the endgame to survive 100-96.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes and 11 ties, Miami came up with just enough defense at just the right time.
Good thing LeBron was locked in. He notched 25 points in the first quarter and eclipsed the 40-point mark on just 19 shots. James was responsible for half of Miami's dozen three-pointers.
Jarrett Jack scored a season-high 22 points with a spate of three-pointers late in the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers could not run through the defending champs despite shooting above 51 percent. The 20 turnovers leading to 26 points did not help.
Dion Waiters got his first career double-double on 17 points and 11 assists. He took a hard fall on his hip in the final minute, after getting his shot blocked and absorbing a lot of contact from LeBron. He stayed down before walking gingerly to the bench.
LeBron's free throws sealed the win shortly thereafter.
It's been a rough couple of days for the Cavs. Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported Monday that Kyrie Irving's biceps injury suffered on Sunday will keep him out for a couple of weeks and possibly the rest of the season. The team will have to take solace in playing well in a losing effort.
It gets worse for Cleveland as Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town on Thursday. The Cavs are 5.5 games out of the last playoff spot and seven games in the loss column.
Miami is three games behind the Indiana Pacers. The back-to-back finishes with the Boston Celtics Wednesday at TD Garden.