Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Haywood Highsmith pops off the bench as the Heat slaughter the Cavaliers

Evan Mobley’s return nor divine intervention could stop the Cavaliers from getting slayed by the Heat at Kaseya Center.

The Heat was missing Tyler Herro (foot), Duncan Robinson (back), Jaime Jaquez Jr. (ankle) and Kevin Love (heel). The Cavaliers were absent Donovan Mitchell (knee), Max Strus (knee) and Dean Wade (knee).

Early, the Heat’s zone and man coverage neutralized three of the Cavaliers’ top available snipers- Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro and Sam Merrill- to one of eight makes. But Jarrett Allen cut for a layup, hooked once in the lane off a pick-and-roll set with Garland and caught a lob from Georges Niang after the Heat blitzed up top. Evan Mobley ran a give-and-go with Allen, swishing a triple; He also spitefully jammed over backline defender Thomas Bryant. Niang canned two trays.

On offense, the Heat saw lite work. Butler scored in transition through contact, pump-faked Mobley out of bounds for a corner three and made four freebies. Adebayo connected on a jumper at the nail and two gorgeous left-handed hooks- the first posting up Niang and the second spinning in the paint with Allen on his hip. And Haywood Highsmith drained a right-wing triple and cut up the baseline for a lob from Terry Rozier.

Through one quarter, the Heat was ahead 32-22, shooting 57.9% to the Cavaliers’ 45%.

Next, the home squad climbed to an 18-point advantage nearly four minutes later. Highsmith kept thriving, nailing two catch-and-release threes and a putback. The rest of the unit registered five of 14 baskets in the period, but it got a boost, creating contact at close range and tallying nine marks at the line. Cleveland’s worst offenders here were DG and Mobley, picking up five fouls between them and at the end of the interval, the former was penalized for his fourth, recklessly trying to take a charge on Butler.

Defensively, the guests were strangled with the zone and the 2-2-1 press leading into it, making one of six 3-pointers and failing on another in transition. The Heat’s protections were so sharp that the Cavs didn’t get one attempt in the restricted area in the second quarter.

At halftime, the Heat was up 60-39. It had 26 paint points, six on the break, two via second chances, 14 after turnovers and 26 from the bench.

Butler had 13 points on two shots and eight recorded freebies, with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Highsmith had 13 points on five of six attempts, and picked up four rebounds, one assist and one steal. And Adebayo added 11 to his scorecard on 71.4% shooting, with seven boards and three steals.

The Cavaliers racked up 14 interior points, none on the break or on extra tries, two after turnovers and 12 from the reserves.

Allen had nine points on three of six ventures, with four rebounds and two assists. Mobley scored seven on four shots and recovered a rebound in his first game since March 5 (ankle). And Garland plus Niang had six points apiece. The other Cavs supplied four of 16 baskets.

In the third, the lifeless Cavs only had two members score multiple field goals – rookie Craig Porter Jr. and elder statesman Tristan Thompson. The Heat choked Cleveland’s offense, permitting nine points through 10 minutes, causing damage with the zone and man coverage. In that stretch, Nikola Jović canned consecutive triples and finished on the break, fed by a Magic Johnson-esque bounce pass from Adebayo. The Heat’s lead was later stuffed to 40 points as Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff fumed on the sideline.

Cleveland’s instructor conceded a minute-and-change into the fourth quarter. He inserted the infrequently used backup Damian Jones (center) and rookie project Emoni Bates (guard). They played the rest of the game and were the only Cavs to produce multiple field goals late.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra slowly subbed in his background players and with over four minutes left, Jamal Cain buried a right-wing banger, giving the Heat a 45-point edge. At that moment, he was joined by Cole Swider, Delon Wright, Orlando Robinson and Bryant.

The Heat won 121-84 and out-rebounded its rival by 14. On top of that, the squad had 50 paint points, 24 on the break, six via second chances, 35 after turnovers and 59 from the bench.

Highsmith dispensed 18 points on seven of 10 looks, with five rebounds, two assists and one steal. Butler had 15 points on six shots, with three rebounds and six assists. Adebayo put up 15 on the scoreboard, with 16 rebounds, three assists and five steals. And Rozier and Bryant had 14 points apiece.

The Cavaliers had 34 interior points, two in the open court, four on extra tries, 11 after turnovers, and 46 from the reserves.

Mobley was the lone guest to score in double figures- 15 points on four of six attempts, with four rebounds and an assist. Allen had tallied nine marks, four rebounds and three dimes. The other starters made six of 19 baskets in the game.

Highsmith handled the on-court interview. He said, [Udonis Haslem] always says, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,’ and I take that to heart. I’m always in the gym, working, putting in extra shots. Whether I play or don’t play, [I’ll be] ready, and I’m here for whatever the team needs.”

At the postgame presser, Spoelstra said, “We were able to get some easy [points] off of some turnovers, stops, long rebounds… In order to see the ball go in sometimes, in an easy way, you have to do a bunch of very difficult things defensively, and we were committed to that.”

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