Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Turnovers Bury Miami in Game 1 of Miniseries With Cleveland
With one game remaining on the Heat’s six-game homestand, the club is 2-3 for the stretch after a close loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Even if Miami beats Cleveland to go .500 in its building, two lost opportunities have made it more challenging to catch the sixth seed.
In Game 67 of the lost season, Miami’s close-range attack against a top-three paint defense was in sync, scoring 18 of its first-quarter points in the interior. Backdoor cuts and screens opened up the baseline, ball handlers made it downhill in transition, mismatches were found under the basket, and Miami was blowing by Cleveland’s point of attack.
On the other end, Cleveland got what it wanted whenever. The Cavaliers created space behind the 3-point line on the overhelp on dribble penetration in the mid-post or by attracting a blitz on the wings to find the openings in the middle and swinging the ball actively in the half-court.
Through 12 minutes, Miami held a 30-26 lead and a 25.6% advantage in field goal efficiency (70.6%-45%). The score was close because the visitors blew up the Heat’s offense and forced six turnovers. Jarrett Allen created two takeaways by trailing Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro on the baseline and eliminating an angle for the entry pass. On another transition play, Allen and Evan Mobley overwhelmed Bam Adebayo on a paint drive. For the subsequent three turnovers, a Heat player stepped out of bounds plus threw a poor outlet and entry pass.
The poor ball protection continued for the hosts throughout the game, but by the end of the first half, the Cavaliers had 12 recoveries. This allowed the Heat only seven made field goals in contrast to the 12 it converted in the opening period with a third of the possession losses.
In the first 24 minutes, Butler had 13 points on 50% shooting with seven out of eight made freebies. On and off the ball, he got into the lane with ease for a lay-in under the cup, a turnaround jumper over Lamar Stevens, and a 10-foot hook over Mobley.
Adebayo was immaculate on his five attempts, but he had no rebounds, despite switching to the perimeter. Three first-half fouls restrained him to nine minutes in the period. Under the rim, Mobley bit on his fake and flew by as #13 went up for the slam. Again, with Mobley matched up, Adebayo faced up at the mid-post to maneuver in the lane for a clean fadeaway jumper.
Herro had nine points on 50% field goal efficiency in the first half too. He broke into the middle of Cleveland’s 2-3 zone, hitting a floating bank shot over Darius Garland and Stevens. Butler set up his second basket by drawing multiple defenders on a baseline drive. Herro then strolled into the middle for the catch and reverse layup after faking out Allen. Next, he splashed a pull-up triple on the break over Donovan Mitchell to give Miami a two-point lead with over six minutes left before the intermission.
Defensively, the third quarter was a failure. Within 90 seconds, Cleveland’s four-point lead was in double digits. The Heatles’ offense kept hope in the arena alive as it logged 61.1% of attempts, but it coughed the ball up an additional seven times. Miami was lucky its chronic butterfingers only let them get outscored by one to head into the fourth quarter down five, still with a chance.
In the final frame, Miami lost the ball over three more times. A moving screen by Adebayo, Herro getting caught extending his legs on a jumper, and Oladipo accidentally smacking Caris LeVert in the face while looking for a shooting foul brought the total to 22 turnovers.
In the last 12 minutes, Miami’s offense crashed and burned, dropping only 29.1% of its tries and 20% from 3-point range. Adebayo, Herro and Caleb Martin were the only Heat players to register a field goal. Here, Victor Oladipo was playing for the Cavs.
Quick Vic took five shots and bricked all of them. Two of his triples were open because Cleveland didn’t respect him. The shot selection on his last miss was so poor it was enough to make Nick Young shake his head. He killed the clock by not passing out when Mobley matched up with him, attempting a trifecta at the top of the key.
Isaac Okoro’s hooking bank shot, covered by Adebayo, extended Cleveland’s lead to five with 49 seconds left. Herro then cut the deficit to two points off a cross-court sideline inbound from Martin to the left wing for a deep jumper.
The free throw game was the next action following Adebayo’s suspect foul on Allen, sending him to the stripe. Allen clanked the second, keeping the Heat on life support.
The Cavaliers elected not to foul with Miami in the bonus. Max Strus managed to get a shot over Mitchell on the right wing, but it rolled off the rim and into the mitts of Allen. As a formality, the Heat sent Mobley to the line when he got the ball, but there were 2.1 seconds remaining.
The Cavaliers won 104-100.
At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra credited the opponents for neutralizing the offense and increasing their disruptiveness while already being a strong defensive team. He also said, “It is extremely tough to win in this league when you have  turnovers.”
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