Heat scorch Cavs as Warriors stumble
THE Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, vying to set up a fourth straight NBA finals clash, continued to limp toward the postseason on Tuesday.
The Miami Heat bolstered their playoff hopes with a 98-79 victory over LeBron James and the Cavs while the playoff-bound Indiana Pacers downed the injury-depleted Warriors 92-81.
Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points and Josh Richardson and James Johnson added 15 apiece for the Heat, who need two more wins in their last seven regular-season games to clinch a playoff berth.
Dwyane Wade blocked a pair of shots by old friend and former teammate James as part of a dominant defensive performance from the home team.
Wade finished with 12 points against a Cavs team that traded him back to Miami in February.
James, who won two National Basketball Association titles with the Heat before returning to lead Cleveland to the 2016 crown, led the Cavs with 18 points.
But Cleveland’s 79 points were a season-low and the Cavs endured their 14th straight defeat at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Cavs saw forward Kevin Love depart less than two minutes in after he took an elbow to the face that loosened a tooth. He returned in the first half but sat out the second with concussion-like symptoms.
Cleveland trailed by as many as 23 points, connecting on just 29-of-80 from the field and coughing up 15 turnovers for 21 Heat points.
“Well, we missed shots early,” said Cavs acting head coach Larry Drew, who dropped to 5-1 in Tyronn Lue’s absence. “Missed shots early. And we allowed their pressure to take us out of some of the stuff we wanted to do. We got down. It just became too big of a deficit.”
In Oakland, the reigning champions Warriors again felt the absence of All-Stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
The Pacers out-scored the Warriors 24-11 in the fourth quarter, handing them a 6th defeat in their last 9 games.
Despite their multitude of injury woes, it looked as if the Warriors might avoid a second straight defeat. They led by as many as 15 points in the first half, and were clinging to a 2-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
But the Pacers opened the fourth on a 9-2 scoring run to take control.
Relief can’t come soon enough for Golden State. Although Curry is expected to be out with a sprained knee until at least the second round of the playoffs, star forward Durant plans to return from a rib injury today, when Green will also likely be back from flu-like illness.
Victor Oladipo had a game-high 24 points for the Pacers.
Nick Young led the Warriors with 12 points.
Elsewhere in the NBA on Tuesday, it was: Trail Blazers 107, Pelicans 103; Rockets 118, Bulls 86; Raptors 114, Nuggets 110; Wizards 116, Spurs 106; Mavericks 103, Kings 97; and Clippers 105, Bucks 98.