LOS ANGELES, March 28 — The Miami Heat continued their NBA playoff push yesterday with a 98-79 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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 NBA 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 they endured their 14th straight defeat at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat gained the victory despite resorting to their 23rd starting lineup of the season, with centres Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo both sidelined.
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, finishing with one point and one rebound.
Cleveland said after the game that Love was experiencing concussion-like symptoms, and they would know today if he’ll have to go through the league’s concussion protocol.
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.”
Elsewhere, the league-leading Houston Rockets continued their strong run to the playoffs with a 118-86 rout of the Chicago Bulls.
With Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden resting, Eric Gordon scored 31 points and matched a career-high with eight three-pointers for the Rockets, who notched their 10th straight win.
Trevor Ariza scored 21 points and Chris Paul returned from a three-game injury absence to add 13 points and 10 assists for Houston, who are the first team since the San Antonio Spurs in the lock-out shortened 2011-12 campaign to have three double-digit winning streaks in a season.
The Washington Wizards, propelled by a 33-11 run in the second quarter, downed the San Antonio Spurs 116-106.
Seven Washington players scored in double figures, led by Markieff Morris’s 15 points on perfect seven-for-seven shooting.
The Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak to strengthen their position in the tight Eastern Conference.
The Spurs’ second defeat in eight games could prove a costly one after LaMarcus Aldridge departed early with a left knee injury initially diagnosed as a contusion.
The Portland Trail Blazers strengthened their grip on third place in the Western Conference with a 107-103 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
Damian Lillard scored 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter as the Trail Blazers won their seventh straight road game.
Lillard’s 18 baskets matched a career high and he added nine rebounds and six assists.
“Like I’ve always said, the best thing about him is his will,” teammate Evan Turner said of Lillard. “In situations like this, in must wins and things, he always steps up. It’s unreal.”
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 36 points — 16 in the fourth quarter. He added a game-high 14 rebounds and blocked six shots in the defeat. — AFP