CLEVELAND – You know a sure sign this Heat team is growing?
Miami’s no longer losing to the NBA’s bottom feeders, something it did routinely early this season and too often last season, when the Heat dropped 12 games to teams that were at least 10 games below .500.
Wednesday’s business-like 117-92 dismantling of Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena was the latest example.
In moving back to .500 at 18-18, Miami has now beaten the lottery-bound Cavs (8-30) twice in the past week, after wins against Phoenix and Orlando in recent weeks. Beating lottery teams could never be assumed with this Heat team, but Miami is making progress there.
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Josh Richardson scored 24 points and Miami got helpful contributions from Derrick Jones Jr. (13 points, seven rebounds), Tyler Johnson (16 points), James Johnson (11 points), Kelly Olynyk (10 points) and Rodney McGruder (10 points). Hassan Whiteside added eight points and 12 rebounds, and Justise Winslow chipped in 10 points and seven assists.
Meanwhile, Dion Waiters – back from ankle surgery last January – was effective in his first NBA game in nearly 13 months, scoring seven points in 11 minutes but shooting 3 for 9. Miami played without Dwyane Wade, who remained in a Cleveland hotel room with an illness, missing what would have been his first game back since his trade from Cleveland to Miami last February.
The Heat, which shot 54 percent, led by 20 after three and Cleveland drew no closer than 15.
And this was huge: The Heat outrbeounded Cleveland by an absurd 47-22 margin.