Friday, April 12, 2024
5-Hour Energy

NBA Preview: Miami Heat (37-31) at Cleveland Cavaliers (43-25)

The Miami Heat conclude a four-game road swing Wednesday when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers in a matchup of teams jockeying for Eastern Conference playoff positioning.

Facing a recent rash of injuries, Cleveland comes into Wednesday’s contest third in the East after a 108-103 defeat of Indiana.

Caris LeVert flirted with a triple-double at 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, while Jarrett Allen went for 23 points and nine rebounds on a night the Cavaliers were without usual starters Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Max Strus.

Strus last played March 3 due to a knee injury and has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game. Mobley suffered an ankle sprain on March 5 expected to sideline him for an extended period.

Mitchell, the team’s leading scorer for the season at 27.4 points per game, returned March 13 from a seven-game absence due to a bone bruise in his knee.

After games of 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting in a 116-95 rout of New Orleans on March 13, and 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting March 16 at Houston, Mitchell sat out the win in Indiana with a fractured nose and knee soreness.

Mitchell had a procedure done for his nose Tuesday, the Cavaliers announced, and he will be reevaluated in one week as the team battles for a home-court advantage in the postseason.

Cleveland trailed Milwaukee by a game entering Tuesday, with New York and Orlando looming two and three games back, respectively, of the Cavaliers.

Amid the tight race, LeVert has played a key role. He has dished at least seven assists in the past seven games, and scored 17 points or more in three of the past four.

Miami comes into Cleveland for the first of two matchups between the teams this week — they play again Sunday in Miami — sitting eighth in the East.

Back-to-back wins over Detroit last Friday and Sunday snapped a four-game losing streak for the Heat, but they dropped a 98-91 decision Monday in Philadelphia.

Each of Miami’s past three wins dating to March 5 came against Detroit. The Heat have not beaten a team with a record above .500 since a 121-110 defeat of Sacramento on Feb. 26, which was part of a stretch in which Miami won seven of eight.

Despite their recent struggles, the Heat trail Philadelphia by only one game for sixth in the East, a coveted spot to avoid the play-in. Miami is a half-game behind Indiana, which occupied the seven seed through Monday.

The Heat are dealing with their own injury issues, including a foot injury to 20.8-point per game scorer Tyler Herro, who last played Feb. 23.

Jimmy Butler — averaging team-highs of 21.4 points and 1.4 steals per game — missed the past two games with his own foot injury.

Duncan Robinson played at Philadelphia, but shot just 1-of-5 from the floor and scored three points — more than 10 points fewer than his season average — while working through back spasms.

Finding offense Wednesday will be a key for both teams, who own two of the NBA’s top defenses. The Cavaliers are sixth, holding opponents to 109.5 points per game, and the Heat are fourth at 109.3 points per game allowed.

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