‘Disruptive’ Cavaliers beat Heat ‘in the mud,’ coach says


MIAMI, March 9 (UPI) — The Cleveland Cavaliers were “disruptive” in their win over the Miami Heat, forcing 24 turnovers to win an ugly game “in the mud,” coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters.

The Heat (35-32) outshot the Cavaliers (42-26) 50% to 48.7%, but their season-high turnover total led to their 104-100 demise Wednesday at Miami-Dade Arena in Miami.

“This thing was going to be in the mud,” Spoelstra said at his postgame news conference. “These are throwback ’90s games. … They grind out some possessions and grind it out down the stretch in this game.

“I said after our last game in Cleveland, there’s a beauty in the grind and in the mud. They’re probably saying the same thing.”

Darius Garland scored a team-high 25 points in the win. Fellow Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell chipped in 18. Center Jarrett Allen and forward Evan Mobley scored 15 points apiece for the Cavaliers, winners of their last three games.

Heat forward Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 28 points in the loss. Four Heat players totaled at least three turnovers. Heat guard Victor Oladipo totaled a game-high five turnovers off the bench.

The Cavaliers own the No. 1 defense in the NBA, allowing a league-low 106.5 points per game. The Heat are averaging a league-low 108.3 points per game, but are allowed the second-fewest points per game.

“They were disruptive in a lot of the actions,” Spoelstra said of the Cavaliers. “There were some forced ones, for sure. You have to account for speed, quickness and the length that they have. It’s unique.”

The Heat stayed in the game for the majority of the first half, which featured 18 lead changes, but sloppy play eventually derailed their effort. The Cavaliers took their final lead with 78 seconds left in the second quarter and never trailed again.

The Heat shot 70.6% from the field in the first quarter and carried a 30-26 lead into the second.

The Heat continued their miscues, which led to a dozen first-half turnovers, with more giveaways over the next 12 minutes. The Cavaliers outscored the Heat 32-23 in the frame and led 57-53 at halftime.

Garland, Mitchell and Allen combined for 35 points in the first half.

Garland scored eight points in the third and the Cavaliers outscore the Heat 30-29 in the frame.

The Cavaliers led by as many as a dozen points in the third, but the Heat used a late 9-2 run to cut into the deficit and made the bout a one-possession game several times over the final 2:44 remaining, but the Cavaliers squashed the rallies by outscoring the Heat 6-3 down the stretch.

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff touted his team’s grit and resilience at his postgame news conference.

“It was an ugly fourth quarter for both teams,” Bickerstaff said. “These are two really good defenses that put you in difficult situations and forced a ton of turnovers both ways.

“I thought our guys did a great job of maintaining their poise.”

The Heat will host the Cavaliers in a rematch at 8 p.m. EST Friday in Miami.

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