(Cleveland, OH) — Kevin Love‘s 30 first-half points helped energize the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 108-97 victory over the Miami Heat at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday night. The win now boosts the Cavaliers’ winning streak to nine games.
Love’s performance was somewhat overshadowed by a bit of history when LeBron James was ejected for the first time in his 15-year career. James angrily confronted an official with 1:59 left in the third quarter when no foul was called after he drove to the basket, leading to the dismissal. He ended the night with a double-double, scoring 21 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and handing out six assists.
“I got fouled and showed my frustration and got sent to the locker room,” James said. “Said what I had to say and moved on, but he decided I should get two of them (technicals). It is what it is. We got the win and that’s what’s most important.”
Scoring 19 of the first 24 points for the Cavs, Love finished the opening quarter with 22. Adding eight more in the second quarter, he closed out his 25-minute night with 38 points, adding eight more points during the second half. He came close to a double-double with nine rebounds, while managing to connect on 14-of-17 from the free-throw line.
“I think we got into the bonus early and the aggressiveness from the whole team from the jump was great,” Love said. “It wasn’t just me. Guys were getting their shots, getting to the free-throw line, playing good basketball.”
Three other Cavaliers finished scoring in double figures, led by Dwyane Wade‘s 17 points and five rebounds. Behind him were J.R. Smith with 12 points and five boards and Kyle Korver with 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.
“Our energy was high on both ends of the floor,” Korver said immediately after the game.
Love’s effort helped Cleveland put together a pair of runs to take early control of the game, first jumping out to a 14-4 lead and then going on an 18-5 surge to take its largest lead of the quarter at 35-17.
Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue spoke about what Love was able to do for the team during his first-quarter scoring outburst:
“He just came out being aggressive, taking shots and had an all-around big game,” Lue said. “He’s had a tough stretch against a lot of top centers, but having Kevin being able to stretch the floor and get rebounds is huge for us.”
The Heat scored the final seven points of the first quarter and then cut the margin to just six points at 38-32 with just over 10 minutes left in the half. That was when the Cavs put their offense into overdrive, first getting the lead back into double digits. Then, holding a 47-37 lead, they scored 17 of the next 19 points to make it 64-39 and eventually took their largest lead of the half at 73-46 in the final minute of the second period.
A key facet of that second-quarter surge that saw the Cavs hold a 75-49 halftime advantage was their 65 percent shooting from the field. Cleveland managed to score 40 points during the period, connecting on five 3-pointers.
The Cavaliers would eventually lead by as many as 34 during the third quarter, then eased up over the remaining 21 minutes, allowing the Heat to chip the final margin to a respectable amount. The victory marked the first time this season that Cleveland won the second game of playing on back-to-back nights.
“They started messing around, going for the home run pass, home run shots,” Lue said of the letdown. “We have to be better than that.”
After the game, Wade reflected on an ironic twist connected to his close friend James’ ejection:
“I have one ejection in my career and it’s against the Cavs,” Wade said.
The Cavaliers will try and extend their winning streak to 10 games on Thursday night with a road clash against the Atlanta Hawks. Some revenge will obviously be on the Cavs’ minds after having suffered an embarrassing 117-115 home loss to the Hawks back on Nov. 5. Since that defeat, the Cavs have gone 10-1.