CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 24 points, Jae Crowder made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:21 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers began a long stretch without injured All-Star Kevin Love by holding off the Miami Heat 91-89 on Wednesday night.
The Cavs rebounded from a troubling loss at Detroit — Cleveland gave up 125 points to the undermanned Pistons — and prevented the Heat from overtaking them for third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Cleveland played its first game since Love broke his left hand against the Pistons. The five-time All-Star is consulting with surgeons in New York, and it’s possible he’ll undergo an operation as early as Thursday. Love, who could miss two months, already has screws in the hand from a previous procedure after he broke it in 2009 with Minnesota.
While he’s out, the Cavs have to hold themselves together.
Goran Dragic scored 18 and Josh Richardson 15 to lead the Heat, who went just 3 of 28 on 3-pointers.
Miami had a last chance after Cleveland’s Kyle Korver made one of two free throws with seven seconds left, but Heat forward James Johnson, harassed by James on the baseline, couldn’t get off a shot before the horn sounded.
The Cavs have been enveloped in drama all season. There have been injuries, blowout losses, persistent trade rumors and more story lines than a day-time soap opera.
“As The Land Turns,” coach Tyronn Lue said with a sigh following his pregame media availability.
The chaos could continue, but for at least one night things didn’t get any worse for the Cavs, who went 6-8 in January and have been plagued by shoddy defense.
It was the first time they’ve held a team under 90 points since Nov. 20.
Despite going just 1 of 16 on 3-pointers, Miami overcame a 14-point deficit to take a 50-48 lead at halftime.
Heat: The tragic death of former NBA player Rasual Butler devastated Miami coach Erik Spoelstra and forward Udonis Haslem. Butler was drafted by Miami and played three seasons there. “I’m shocked. It’s horrible, horrible news for all of us,” said Spoelstra, who got emotional talking about Butler, who was killed along with his wife in a single-vehicle rollover in Los Angeles. “He’s one of our favorite people that’s come through the organization.” Haslem is the only player left with the Heat who played with Butler. “Blindsided me,” he said. “I immediately took to Rasual when I got here. Another competitor, guy like myself, fearless. We just hung out a lot.” … Miami fell to 17-6 when holding opponents under 100 points.
Cavaliers: James committed six of his seven turnovers in the first half and didn’t get his first assist until 11:16 remained in the third quarter. … Lue started Crowder because he wanted to match up with Johnson, but Cleveland’s lineup could change on a game-to-game basis. … James has scored in double digits in 841 consecutive games — 25 shy of Michael Jordan’s record. … In the loss at Detroit, James (10,932) passed Dirk Nowitzki (10,917) for eighth place on the career field goals list. Next up is Elvin Hayes (10,976).
Heat: Continue a four-game trip Friday in Philadelphia.
Cavaliers: Host the Houston Rockets on Saturday.
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