MIAMI -- The Miami Heat handed the Cleveland Cavaliers their 21st consecutive loss with a 117-90 blowout at the AmericanAirlines Arena in yet another reminder of how much LeBron James' departure and arrival has impacted both teams. It's been 44 days and counting since Cleveland's last victory back on December 18th against the New York Knicks and while they were missing key players including Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams to injury, the Cavs managed to make it interesting as they got within 70-67 early in the third quarter until they fell apart and order was restored quickly.
While the Cavs offense generally did a decent job attacking the Heat's interior defense which netted several easy buckets in the paint, culminating in a 37-point second quarter outburst, their defense continuously allowed Dwyane Wade and James to attack the basket unimpeded which freed up the Heat's shooters to also do their damage. Cavs guard Anthony Parker could only look back in frustration as his team goes through one of their most futile stretches in franchise history.
"They're a good team," Parker said. "They've got some players that can make plays even if you do everything right and I thought we tried to do, for the most part, the right things but it didn't go our way for a stretch. It's unfortunate because we fought so hard to get back into it."
Heat's Big 3 finally return to Miami
Heat fans had to wait nearly a month to see James, Wade and Chris Bosh together on the floor again in Miami and the wait was certainly worth it. While Bosh struggled throughout the game, likely as a result of playing 36 minutes on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder in his first action since returning from an ankle sprain, with only 10 points and 7 rebounds, the duo of Wade and James was more than enough to liven up the crowd. One such play featured James making a spectacular dunk with three Cavs defenders all over him, bringing Wade to his feet in celebration from the bench.
"Since he's landed in Miami, we haven't seen too much of that," teased Wade with James sitting next to him. "He left a little bit back in Cleveland so I've been waiting on it and it kind of happened so fast that it threw me off. When he goes to the basket I always expect him to do that. That's about the first time in 48 games so it was great to see. Hopefully he'll get that left leg pumping and we can get some more of that in the second half of the season."
James reaches out to Harris
Immediately following the conclusion of the game, James made his way towards the Cavs bench and first exchanged some friendly words with Jamario Moon before talking extensively with undrafted rookie Manny Harris who recently moved into the starting lineup and was one of the few bright spots for Cleveland with his second consecutive 20-point game.
"I've known Manny since he was in high school all the way through college in Michigan," explained James. "I think he's a very talented young player. I just told him no matter what's going on with the team he has to continue to play well, be aggressive and have his confidence and don't let any distractions on and off the court stop him from trying to be a really good player in this league. I've seen him get his opportunity with the injuries that they've had and he's played exceptionally well."
Harris told reporters it was one of the first instances all year that an opposing player had talked to him after a game. James was his favorite NBA player growing up and he was all ears as James gave him some veteran wisdom.
"I think my confidence will be the same but coming from a player like him and his caliber, it means a lot," he noted. "Everything he said was right."
Bosh declines to continue war of words with Kevin Durant
With Kevin Durant's surprising comments after Oklahoma City's loss to Miami on Sunday about Bosh's toughness, the Heat forward was given the opportunity Monday night to respond but casually dismissed the criticism.
"Oh yeah, I heard it," he replied. "I'm not even known for that, I just play ball and that's really it. When you play the game, things will get heated, you have a couple of words and there might be a scuffle but that's really it. I left it where it was, it wasn't that big of a deal for me."