CLEVELAND (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The rivalry between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers is real, regardless of who feels it more; the players or the fans.
The Heat had little trouble sprinting past Cleveland at home on Saturday with All-Stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sitting out, but that doesn’t mean the victory came without controversy.
Both teams will try to keep the emotions under control when the home-and-home set shifts to Cleveland on Monday.
Late in Miami’s 120-92 triumph on Friday, guard Rodney McGruder went up for a dunk and slapped Cavaliers forward Channing Frye in the back on his way back down to the ground.
Injured Cleveland shooting guard J.R. Smith, who was on the bench in a suit, was not happy about the slap and started yelling at several Miami players on the court during a stoppage in play before being escorted away.
“We got J.R. off the floor,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters of the guard, who is expected back from a thumb injury later this month. “He’s fiery. He’s feisty. He’s ready to get back on the floor. It happens throughout the course of a game. It’s nothing, though.”
The win was the 18th in the last 22 games for the Heat, who sit ninth in the East – 1 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Detroit Pistons.
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ABOUT THE HEAT (29-34): Miami might have gotten caught looking ahead in a rare poor performance during a 110-99 loss at Orlando on Friday, but it had no trouble getting up for Cleveland the next night – even with James and Irving out.
The Heat shot 52.3 percent from the floor and went 18-of-34 from 3-point range in the win.
“We should be able to win some games when we don’t make 18 threes,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “We’re not trying to outscore teams and play a pickup game. We have to be lunch-pail, hard-hat, gritty-type team. And even though our offense has been trending much, much better, our identity has to be to commit to the defensive end.”
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (42-19): Cleveland remains atop the East and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down with Smith and Kevin Love on the mend and another former champion ready to join the team in center Andrew Bogut.
The former No. 1 overall pick and 2014-15 champion as a member of the Golden State Warriors sat out Saturday after signing with the team as a free agent and will slot in as another defensive force in the middle and excellent pick-and-roll passer.
The 2015-16 NBA Finals swung in the Cavaliers’ favor in part because Bogut got hurt in the series, and injuries limited the 32-year-old to 26 games with the Dallas Mavericks this season.
- The Cavaliers went 11-of-27 from 3-point range on Saturday after setting an NBA record with 25 made 3-pointers at Atlanta on Friday.
- Miami C Hassan Whiteside recorded his fifth straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds on Saturday.
- Cleveland PG Deron Williams handed out seven assists in each of the last two games while averaging 22 minutes.
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