The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat at home last night, 102-90, for just their fifteenth win of the season. For the 51-23 Heat, who clinched a playoff spot over two weeks ago and just have to survive the remainder of the season without a significant injury, this was really just another slight embarrassment in a season that has had a handful of slight embarrassments. They'll move on. But for the Cavs, who we must acknowledge have had a pretty terrible and demoralizing year, this rather meaningless game was otherwise a reason to hear their arena erupt — as they did on this incredible Baron Davis alley-oop to Alonzo Gee — and a reason for the fans to boo and a reason for everyone to give a shit again. At least for a night.
It has been a precipitous fall for this team, which made it to either the Eastern Conference semifinals or finals for five straight seasons, and their only motivation for the remainder of the year is to escape with just the second- or third-worst record in the league. Last night's motivation was different, though. Cleveland lost to Miami at home by 28 points in December; yesterday they looked superior defensively and shot 56 percent from the field as a team. This time around, beating LeBron was the modified Cleveland's version of a sixth straight playoff berth: at the buzzer, confetti and streamers fell from the ceiling and after the game, a security guard told coach Byron Scott, "we're going to talk about this one all summer."
There won't be basketball games to watch in Cleveland after the regular-season finale against the Wizards on April 13 (a dismal match-up in itself), but the fans will still care that their team beat the bad guys. "You guys deserve this," Anthony Parker told the not-quite-sold-out arena after the game, and they cheered in agreement. A battle-tested fan, much like the Cavs supporters before bearing witness to LeBron, is a different kind of fan. And should Cleveland balance out its wins and losses until April 13, they'll likely have Arizona's Derrick Williams next year — and that's something they can all agree to give a shit about.
James, who had 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in the loss, fortuitously missed out on his pre-game introduction — he was "in the bathroom," naturally — and used up the last dose of his Quicken magic with a "buzzer-beater" at the end of the third quarter.
Cleveland Cavaliers outhustle, outwork Miami, 102-90 [Plain-Dealer]
Cavaliers get their revenge on Miami Heat [Miami Herald]