CLEVELAND — At least the Cavaliers can still win at home.
No matter how ugly it needs to be.
In a game that set basketball back decades, the Cavs hung on to beat the Miami Heat 91-89 Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Despite winning for just the sixth time in its last 17 games overall, Cleveland (30-20) managed to triumph for the 17th time in its last 19 home games to stay ahead of the Heat (29-22) in the battle for third place in the Eastern Conference.
“To win a game on the defensive side after the struggles we’ve had, that’s pretty impressive,” said LeBron James, who led the Cavs with 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and seven turnovers.
This one wasn’t decided until Kyle Korver split a pair of free throws with 7.0 seconds left. When he missed the second, Miami’s James Johnson dribbled the length of the court — both teams were out of timeouts — but hesitated when he got to the baseline against James and didn’t get a shot off before time expired.
“We knew it was going to be one of those ugly games in the third and fourth quarter,” said Cleveland point guard Isaiah Thomas, who had 13 points on 2-for-15 shooting from the field and 9-for-9 at the line. “Those are all confidence-builders when you can sneak one out.”
Neither team played well, but both at least played hard.
Miami was a woeful 3-for-28 on 3-pointers (.107), while the Cavs were just 6-for-26 (.231). The Heat shot .434 from the field (36-for-83), while Cleveland was even worse at .350 (28-for-80).
“For us, the way we’ve been playing defensively lately, you would think we lost by 30,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of the offensive numbers. “We just stayed in the moment.”
Channing Frye, who three times scored off James passes on cuts to the hoop, had 16 points and Jae Crowder, who started in place of the injured Kevin Love, had 11 points and seven boards.
Starting center Tristan Thompson was scoreless and had six rebounds in 23 minutes, but somehow the Cavs found a way to win ugly.
“We did a good job of grinding it out,” Lue said. “I thought defensively we were good.”
Ranked 28th in the league in scoring, the Heat watched Kelly Olynyk botch a 4-on-1 fastbreak and Johnson get a wide-open layup blocked by the rim.
Even Goran Dragic, who led Miami with 18 points, was just 7-for-17 from the field as Miami compounded its 3-point woes by going just 14-for-25 at the line.
“Neither team could make a shot,” Frye said.
Despite Thomas going 1-for-8 from the field in nine minutes of action in the third period, the Cavs stayed tied at 72 behind nine points from Frye, who twice cut down the lane and dunked after receiving passes from James.
The 34-year-old, who repeatedly came off a corner pick from Dwyane Wade, did it a third time in the fourth period and had a chance to do it a fourth, but traveled.
“Normally they catch wind of that play after one or two times,” Frye said. “It kept working. I’m going to have to get new shoes. I wore the tread out tonight.”
Despite leading for virtually all of the first two quarters, the Cavs somehow trailed 50-48 after a brutal first half that featured 1-for-16 3-point shooting by Miami and six horrendous turnovers by James, who did not record an assist.
Limiting easy run-outs and dunks for Miami early on, Cleveland led 39-25 four minutes into the second period before the Heat went on one of the slowest 11-0 runs in NBA history.
Miami eventually took the lead despite Olynyk jacking up 3-pointers like he was the second coming of Larry Bird. Olynyk went 0-for-5 from behind the arc over the opening two periods, and the Heat also air-balled two free throws while going 13-for-20 at the line.
The Cavs, though, were worse, scoring nine points over the final 8:07 of the half. A sluggish James was 2-for-7 from the field in the second period, while Thomas went 1-for-5 in the first half.
As a team, Cleveland shot .359 in the first half (14-for-39), including 4-for-19 in a 21-point second quarter. The Cavs also were outrebounded 18-8 in the second period.
It all ended well for the Cavs, though, as they held a team under 90 points for just the second time this season.
“It’s been a tough month for us,” Thomas said. “To end on a good note is always good.”
Cavs 91, Heat 89
MIAMI (89): Richardson 7-13 0-1 15, J.Johnson 4-9 0-0 8, Whiteside 2-4 5-8 9, Dragic 7-17 3-4 18, T.Johnson 4-12 2-5 11, Winslow 4-7 1-2 9, Olynyk 5-12 0-0 10, Adebayo 3-5 3-5 9, Ellington 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 36-83 14-25 89.
CLEVELAND (91): James 8-21 7-11 24, Crowder 4-7 2-2 11, Thompson 0-5 0-0 0, Thomas 2-15 9-9 13, Smith 3-5 0-2 6, Green 0-2 2-2 2, Frye 6-9 2-2 16, Rose 0-2 1-2 1, Korver 3-6 1-2 9, Wade 2-8 5-6 9. Totals 28-80 29-38 91.
Miami 21 29 22 17 — 89
Cleveland 27 21 24 19 — 91
3-Point Goals—Miami 3-28 (Richardson 1-4, Dragic 1-5, T.Johnson 1-7, Winslow 0-1, J.Johnson 0-2, Ellington 0-3, Olynyk 0-6), Cleveland 6-26 (Korver 2-4, Frye 2-4, Crowder 1-2, James 1-6, Wade 0-1, Rose 0-1, Smith 0-2, Thomas 0-6). Rebounds—Miami 52 (Winslow 10), Cleveland 45 (James 11). Assists—Miami 17 (Dragic 6), Cleveland 18 (Thomas 6). Total Fouls—Miami 25, Cleveland 20. Technicals—Ellington. A—20,562 (20,562).
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