MIAMI — The Miami Heat’s Big Three were everywhere during Saturday’s first half.
And then, in the third quarter, they were gone.
So what stood as a 19-point lead early in the third quarter instead turned into a fourth-quarter deficit and a full night’s work in a 114-107 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“The energy, the purpose of what we were doing just waned a little bit,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
And returned when needed most.
“What was most important at the time, was making sure we got back on track,” said center Chris Bosh, with this the second time this season Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each scored at least 20 points.
At halftime, it couldn’t have looked any more Big Three-rific, Wade with 20 points, Bosh with 18, James with 15 on 6-of-6 perfection from the field.
The third quarter? Not so much: Wade scoreless, Bosh with two points, James with three.
“You do have to credit the Cavs with staying with it,” Spoelstra said.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers were within 84-80.
A 3-pointer by backup Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova tied it with 8:40 to play, a basket by reserve guard Jarrett Jack then putting Cleveland up 93-91, as the Cavaliers made their move with a three-guard lineup.
What looked promising at the start of the homestand turned into something else, the second-quarter ejection of coach Mike Brown fueling the Cavaliers, a third-quarter technical foul for Bosh contributing to a sense of Heat desperation.
“When you play them, you’re not going to get a lot of calls,” Brown said afterward. “I lost it there.”
Suddenly, this became work.
A 17-foot jumper by Bosh tied it at 100, with a shot by James then putting the Heat up 102-100 with 3:24 to play.
From there, a Norris Cole layup off a James assist and a pair of Ray Allen free throws put the Heat up 106-100 with 2:16 to play. Earlier, a third-quarter 3-pointer lifted Allen to 24,000 career points.
After Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao made one of two free throws, a 3-pointer by point guard Mario Chalmers put the Heat up 109-101 with 1:36 to play, effectively ending it.
James paced the Heat with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting, nine assists and nine rebounds.
“That’s the best player in the league,” Spoelstra said, “and what I like is the efficiency of it.”
Wade added 24 points, Bosh 22 points and a season-high 12 rebounds.
Spoelstra took particular note of Bosh’s effort.
“I really liked it,” he said. “I liked his pie chart. I liked how many different ways he impacted the game.”
Bosh’s effort on the boards proved essential.
“I want to be more consistent with my rebounding and just be in the right spot at the right times,” he said.
Spoelstra made sure his team’s three-day break before Saturday’s game wouldn’t turn into a vacation.
After giving his team Wednesday off to move past Tuesday night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, he pushed them hard Thursday and Friday.
The approach certainly paid dividends early, with Wade shooting 7-of-8 in the first half, James 6-of-6 and Shane Battier producing a chase-down blocked shot.
The latter accomplishment simply was too much to digest for Brown, who was ejected moments later in the second period.
The Cavaliers’ rally came after Bosh, amid one of his more active games, was called for his fourth foul with 5:17 to play in the third period.
After dropping three of their previous five games, including the previous home game, against the Detroit Pistons, the Heat came out restless.
Before the game, Wade joked of the rare three-day break, “Too bad you don’t get this all the time.”
The rest clearly came at the right time for Wade, whose 20 points in the first half were his high for any half this season, eclipsing the 19 he had scored in a second half against the Orlando Magic.
It was a Cleveland fastbreak that evoked Brown’s ire, when a fastbreak layup attempt by Cavaliers forward Alonzo Gee was thwarted at the rim by Battier late in the second period. An enraged Brown then charged the court, was assessed consecutive technical fouls and banished to the locker room.
Jim Boylan, who coached the Milwaukee Bucks against the Heat in last season’s opening round of the playoffs, took over from there.
It was a first half that featured an oddity beyond Battier’s chase-down block, with backup center Chris Andersen converting a first-quarter 3-pointer, on his third attempt from beyond the arc this season.