MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Fans who paid to see some of the NBA’s biggest stars may have been disappointed, but at least the home team won.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving rested, and the Miami Heat took advantage.
Until the final seconds, that was the entire story.
Goran Dragic scored 23 points, Hassan Whiteside had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Heat beat the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 120-92 on Saturday night.
Tyler Johnson added 17 points for the Heat, who won for the 18th time in their last 22 games and made 18 3-pointers.
But tempers flared in the final seconds after the Cavaliers — the injured J.R. Smith, it seemed, in particular — took exception to Rodney McGruder’s exuberant tip dunk where he made contact with Cleveland’s Channing Frye with about a minute left. Benches emptied as time expired, Dion Waiters and Udonis Haslem did some pointing and shouting toward the Cavaliers, and some from both sides were playing peacemaker.
“Ado about nothing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Added Frye: “It’s not really a story. Tempers flared. It is what it is. It’s over now. They won. Congrats.”
The teams play again in Cleveland on Monday night.
The Cavaliers fell to 0-5 this season when James isn’t in the lineup, and continue to be without two other would-be starters in Kevin Love and Smith — both still recovering from surgeries. Newly signed center Andrew Bogut also wasn’t with the Cavaliers.
Frye scored 21 points and Kyle Korver added 15 for the Cavaliers, who have lost their last 12 games in Miami.
“We forced them to shoot long contested shots,” said Dragic, who had 10 points in the third as Miami built a 101-75 lead. “And we played together on offense.”
The Heat remained 1 1/2 games behind Detroit for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference race. Cleveland’s lead over idle Boston for the No. 1 spot in the East was trimmed to 2 1/2 games.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said this wouldn’t be the last time James sits before the end of the regular season. James is averaging nearly 38 minutes per game, and has played more minutes — by far — than anyone else in the NBA over the last seven seasons, in large part because he keeps leading his teams to the NBA Finals.
He’s been to the last six of those, and the Cavs want to make sure he’s fresh enough come playoff time to have the best possible chance at No. 7.
“He understands the big picture and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Lue said.
Cavaliers: A night after setting an NBA regular-season record with 25 3-pointers, the Cavs went 11 for 27 from beyond the arc. … James, who tackled a Heat fan in celebration after one made a halfcourt shot for $75,000 in 2013, cheered when another made a shot Saturday for 100,000 frequent-flier miles. … Derrick Williams, as expected, was signed for the rest of the season earlier Saturday.
Heat: The 12 straight home wins against Cleveland is Miami’s second-longest active such streak. The Heat have won 15 straight at home over Sacramento. … Luke Babbitt went 3 for 4 from 3-point range, making him 20 for 30 from long range in his last 10 games.
Cavs forward Richard Jefferson took some heckling from a fan in stride. Jefferson got asked by a courtside ticketholder why he doesn’t retire, and had a quick response. “You aren’t tired of watching me,” Jefferson said.
Heat forward James Johnson needed four stitches in his right elbow, and Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert chipped two teeth.
The teams meet again Monday in Cleveland. James and Irving are expected to play, and Bogut’s Cavs debut is likely.
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