James Starts It, Bosh Finishes It, Heat Win It

It’s the beauty of a Heat team that has an embarrassment of riches up and down their roster.

If one All-Star doesn’t get you, then another one will. Or another. Or another. 

After LeBron James had set the tone in an emphatic way, it was Chris Bosh’s turn to step up late in a 100-96 over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday night. Bosh scored a dozen points in the fourth quarter, when the visitors never had a firm grip on their second consecutive victory until the final seconds.

“A couple times the coaching staff told me the rim was open,” said Bosh, who dismissed his hyperextended right knee as “just a little bump” and nothing more. “I failed to look at the rim a few times in our random offense and drive-and-kick situations. I was like, ‘All right, I’ll look at the rim.’ The rim was open and it was talking to me and said, ‘Hey, shoot it.'” 

The friendly iron apparently said much the same to Cavaliers veteran Jarrett Jack (22 points), who made things interesting down the stretch. In the final four minutes, the guard bagged three three-pointers, the last of which made it a two-point game. James answered with a pair of free throws to seal the deal.

“Our best quarter probably at both ends was the fourth, not only the defensive efforts and holding them to 17 (points) and finishing plays off and rebounding in traffic but the execution down the stretch,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said.

James received a civil welcome from the sellout crowd, a far cry from the angry response that he received immediately after his departure as a free agent four years ago. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sat in the front row.

“(The fan reaction) has been different every time since we played here Dec. 2, 2010,” said James, who still had the date etched in his mind.  

James wasted no time to show Gilbert what he let get away. In the first period, he scored 25 of his game-high 43 points, which matched his team record for one quarter. The point total was the highest for any player with fewer than 20 field goal attempts this season.

Only Spoelstra could have stopped James at that point, but the coach wasn’t about to interfere even if fade-away three-pointers weren’t part of the game plan.

“When I started the game off, I felt that I could go for 50 or 60 (points),” James said. “You can’t really dictate what may happen. You have got to play the course. In the fourth quarter, C.B. got it going. They doubled me, so I was able to be a facilitator.”

James attempted only three field goals in the second half but converted all eight of his free throw tries. The turnaround came after he had  bricked 4 of 5 attempts at the charity line in the first half, at which point teammate Ray Allen suggested that he tweak his follow-through technique.

Greg Oden (six points, two blocked shots) started at center and Shane Battier came in off the bench for the second time in as many games. Toney Douglas replaced Dwyane Wade, who didn’t feel up to par and was given the night off.

The Cavaliers were without the injured Luol Deng and Kyrie Irving, their top scorer.

“If (Oden) shows the energy and the effort and the activity, which he did tonight, that’s big time,” James said. “Defensively, he’s so big, he clogs the paint.”

It may be premature to say the worst is behind them, but James and company appear to have put their streak of five losses in six games in the rear-view mirror for now.

Said Spoelstra, “More than anything, that’s the (result of) concentrated focus on improving something that failed us last week. So for two games, going down the stretch, that’s progress.”