On Tuesday the Miami Heat played their eighth game this season without Dwyane Wade. The Heat have survived Wade's injuries quite well, winning their first six without him before finally stumbling Sunday against Milwaukee. In Wade's absence once again on Tuesday, playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat were looking to avoid consecutive losses, and counting on their All-Star forward to lead them. That's exactly what happened, but it's not the All-Star you're thinking of.
While LeBron James was held to just 18 points against his former team, Chris Bosh scored a season-high 35 on just 16 shots. Bosh was 10 for 16 from the field, and a stellar 14 for 14 from the line. In a game that was surprisingly close from beginning to end, Bosh had 17 points in the final quarter, including six straight free throws to help ice the game as the Heat won 92-85.
It wasn't Miami's best game. A top-10 defensive unit holding opponents under 43 percent shooting coming into the game, they allowed the offensively challenged Cavs to shoot 50 percent from the field. As for James, he took 21 shots to score his 18 points. In a season where he has been the model of scoring efficiency, it was the first time all year that he's accumulated more shots than points. He was also the only member of the Heat to miss a free throw all night.
The teams could not pull away from each other -- neither ever built a double-digit lead. At one point in the first quarter they swapped three consecutive 6-0 runs, each one taking a three-point lead in turn. Cleveland, playing on the road, hung in with the mighty Heat admirably. They managed to cut an eight-point lead down to three twice in the final seconds, but Miami made eight straight free throws to keep the game out of reach. Cavs blog Fear the Sword found plenty praiseworthy in Cleveland's solid effort:
I absolutely love how the team came out and fought tonight. I know people don't like the concept of a "moral victory" but this was one if I've ever seen it. After getting completely thrashed by Atlanta and Chicago, I thought the Cavs were in for another beatdown at the hands of a far more talented team. I'm not sure who, exactly, to credit for injecting some life into this team (although I suspect Byron Scott), but it was really great to see. Everyone played hard and fouled hard. It was 100% effort on every single play and they fought til the very last buzzer. Great to see from a young team after two potentially deflating losses.
With the win, Miami improves to 12-5 while Cleveland drops to 6-10.