7:30 PM ET, January 31, 2011
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
Dwyane Wade, LeBron James help Heat deal out 21st straight loss for Cavs
First to 40 wins one year.
First to 40 losses the next.
Dwyane Wade scored 26 of his 34 points in the first half, James finished with 24 points and eight assists and the Miami Heat beat the Cavaliers for the third time since the two-time MVP changed cities, winning 117-90 Monday night to hand Cleveland its 21st straight loss -- as many as it dropped in the entire 2009-10 regular season.
Cleveland (8-40) is now two losses shy of tying the single-season NBA futility streak record shared by the 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies and 1997-98 Denver Nuggets. Overall, the Cavaliers have lost 31 of 32 games, along with 24 straight on the road.
"I have nothing bad to say about the players that I left and the team," James said. "I wish the organization the best. And I wish the fans, more than anything, the best because we had a lot of great years together."
They might be hard-pressed to remember those now.
This game had a few moments of hope for the Cavaliers. They were down by 19 in the first half, when Wade was almost unguardable for stretches -- one of his dunks, off a pass from James, was so spectacular that rap moguls Sean "Diddy" Combs and Rick Ross leaped from their courtside seats.
Feeling Less Than Cavalier
With Monday's loss, Cleveland finished January 0-16, becoming just the third team in the last 20 seasons to finish a month winless when playing at least 15 games.
Quietly, Cleveland started putting together good stretch after good stretch, getting within 70-67 in the third quarter.
Was this going to be the night?
Not a chance.
James had nine points in a 19-5 run to close the third quarter, Miami's lead was 89-72 entering the fourth, and it turned into a romp from there.
"We played pretty good in the third quarter," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. "I thought they just took it to another gear. They've got the type of team that can do that."
The Heat (34-14) moved within 2½ games of Boston for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 12 points and a season-high 14 rebounds against his former team, Eddie House also scored 12 and Chris Bosh added 10 points for Miami.
• Dwyane Wade (34 points) has scored at least 30 in three straight games and four of his last five overall.
• The Cavaliers dropped their 21st straight game and 24th in a row on the road.
• The 21-game skid is the third longest single-season losing streak in NBA history.
• Fourteen of the Cavaliers' losses during the streak have been by double figures.
• Cleveland finishes January 0-16, becoming just the third team in the last 20 seasons to finish a month winless (min. 15 games).
-- ESPN Stats & Information
"They are a good team and they've got some players who can make plays," Cleveland's Anthony Parker said, "even if you do everything right."
James insisted he bears no ill will against his first NBA team, and as if to underscore that, he pulled Harris aside for some postgame words of encouragement.
"I think he's a very talented young player," James said. "And I just told him no matter what's going on with the team, he has to continue to play well. He has to continue to stay aggressive, have his confidence."
Said Harris: "Coming from a player like him and his caliber it means a lot. Everything he said was right."
Wade hit 10 of his first 12 shots, the third straight game for him with a sizzling start. James had 15 in the first half, including a highlight-caliber dunk over Christian Eyenga and Hickson that gave Miami a 61-44 lead.
And although it was a one-possession game midway through the third quarter, the outcome never truly seemed in doubt.
"We had great respect for Cleveland tonight," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Sometimes it can happen very quickly like that. That's why we talk about the habits. A game can change in three minutes. In a playoff series, that can be all it takes."
Cleveland's franchise -- which reached great heights with James for seven years, and has fallen to the bottom of the NBA less than seven months after he left -- already owns the all-time NBA losing-streak record, a 24-game slide that spanned from March to November 1982.
At this rate, that mark could be erased in a week.
"We just keep fighting. That's all you can do," Scott said before the game.
Last Feb. 4, the Cavaliers beat Miami 102-86, moving to an NBA-best 40-11 at the time. The Cavs finished 61-21, two games better than anyone in the league.
This year? They're better than no one. The next chance to snap the skein is Wednesday against Indiana. Cleveland is at Memphis on Friday, back home to face Portland on Saturday, then goes to Dallas next Monday.
Lose them all, and that'll be 25 in a row -- the blight of blights in NBA history.
James sees no reason to enjoy Cleveland's epic struggles. And it doesn't give him a sense of vindication, either.
The way he sees it, Cleveland's descent does nothing to prove that he made the right choice in joining up with Wade and Bosh in South Florida.
"It didn't matter for me if the Cavs were going to have a successful season or not," James said. "I felt like I was making the right choice for me as an individual and for my career."
Monday's game was the third time Miami and Cleveland have met since James switched uniforms. Unlike the first two, it almost seemed like a regular game instead of having a circus atmosphere.
"The first two were kind of crazy, but now both teams went their separate ways," Scott said. "I think it is just a game right now and I think that's how both teams look at it."
It wasn't just James who played the role of superstar who dealt a team a significant blow by moving elsewhere last summer, of course. Without Bosh, the Toronto Raptors have now lost 12 straight, its longest slide since the season before James, Bosh and Wade were all part of the same draft class.
In Miami, that threesome just keeps on clicking.
"I'm happy that at this point in the season, we're playing some good ball, whether it's against the Cavs or whatever," James said.
The Cavaliers played again without guard Mo Williams, who has a strained left hip flexor. ... House was fined $25,000 earlier Monday for his excessive celebration after hitting the deciding 3-pointer in Sunday's win at Oklahoma City. ... Miami's next game is Thursday at Orlando, a matchup of Southeast Division rivals who last met in late November. The Heat and Magic have split two meetings this season, each winning at home.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||32-82 (.390)||43-88 (.489)|
|3PM-3PA||4-13 (.308)||8-18 (.444)|
|FTM-FTA||22-27 (.815)||23-28 (.821)|
|Fast Break Points||16||20|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||22 (1/0)||20 (1/0)|
Next 5 Games
When the Cavaliers and Heat met for the first time on December 2nd, the Cavs were hanging around 500 while the Heat were off to an underwhelming start. What a watershed moment that proved to be. Since LeBron's return to Cleveland, the Heat have gone 23-6 while the Cavs have staggered to a 1-30 mark, getting outscored by an average of more than 15 points per game.[+]
Watershed Moment - Since 1st Meeting This Season
ESPN Stats & Information