CLEVELAND — Kevin Love scored 32 of his 38 points in the first half, LeBron James was ejected for the first time in his career and the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their longest winning streak since 2015 to nine games by downing the Miami Heat 108-97 on Tuesday night.
James added 21 points before he was slapped with two technical fouls by referee Ken Fitzgerald and tossed with 1:59 left in the third quarter and the Cavs leading by 23. It was the first time James was thrown out in 1,082 career games.
After the game, LeBron said, “It is what it is. We got the win; that’s what’s most important.”
Dwyane Wade added 17 points for Cleveland, which has shaken off a slow start and is again playing like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Dion Waiters scored 21 and Bam Adebayo had 19 for the Heat, who had won three in a row. Goran Dragic finished with just seven points — 12 below his team-leading scoring average.
With the Cavs leading 93-70, James drove to the basket and missed a layup while getting bumped by James Johnson and Waiters. James felt there should have been a foul called and he stormed after Fitzgerald and screamed at the official, who quickly blew his whistle twice and pointed for the superstar to leave the floor.
The Heat closed to 93-76 early in the fourth, but Wade scored Cleveland’s first six points in the quarter and fed Kyle Korver for a 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 102-79 lead.
At the end of the first quarter, Miami had 24 points to Love’s 22 and there didn’t seem to be anything Heat coach Erik Spoelstra could do to stop Cleveland’s All-Star center. Love was able to pull Heat shot-swatter Hassan Whiteside away from the basket, and he was too physical for Kelly Olynyk, who went to the bench with early foul trouble.
Love also overpowered Josh Richardson and tied the record for the most points allowed by the Heat in one half. Tracy McGrady and Lafayette Lever also dropped 32 on Miami. It was also the most points any player scored on Miami — in a game — all season, topping the 31 by San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge on Oct. 25.
Love, who set an NBA record for points in a first quarter with 34 last season against Portland, made three 3-pointers in the opening 12 minutes as the Cavs built an 18-point lead.
Love also forced one-time playoff nemesis Olynyk to commit three fouls in four minutes. It was Olynyk who dislocated Love’s shoulder during the 2015 postseason, an injury that knocked him out for the remainder of Cleveland’s run to the Finals.
Heat: Spoelstra didn’t get too nostalgic when was asked about his time coaching Wade and James in Miami. “When you see these guys in different uniforms it’s always like, ‘Really, that looks strange,'” he said. “When I see them, it’s always nice to have that split-second going back memory lane. But my focus is what these guys in here right now.” … Spoelstra isn’t surprised that Wade has embraced his role coming off the bench for Cleveland. “Any role that has to do with winning suits him,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what he’s been about his whole career.”
Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue said the next step for G Isaiah Thomas in his comeback from a serious hip injury is to play 2-on-2 and 3-on-3. That hasn’t happened yet, and Lue does not know if Thomas will make his debut earlier than the team’s original projection of the end of December. … G Iman Shumpert was not available after playing seven minutes in Monday’s win at Philadelphia. Shumpert has been sidelined with a swollen left knee. … J.R. Smith wrote “RIP Petey” on his sneakers to honor a cousin who died last weekend in a fire.
Heat: Finish four-game trip on Wednesday in New York.
Cavaliers: At Atlanta on Thursday.