The Miami Heat took care of business on a Saturday evening inside the American Airlines Arena as they pounced down on the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers, which opted to give its Big Three a night off.
But, what could have turned out as a lackluster 120-92 lopsided win in favor of the home team, was marred in the end by an altercation between some of the players, with J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters as the main protagonists for each side.
The Cavs and the Heat just played the first game of their home-and-home series in South Beach. And, the Cavs are hoping to turn the tide and return the favor as they host the Miami Heat this Monday at the Quicken Loans Arena in Ohio.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love who suffered a left knee injury were all a DNP in the match. The Heat game on Saturday was the tail end of a back-to-back, and the last game of three-consecutive road games for the Cavs. James and Irving are expected to suit up for the next game as the Cavs seek to avenge the road loss against the Heat.
But, that is not to take anything away from Miami Heat. With or without LeBron James, the Heat have proven that they got the Cavs’ numbers whenever the two teams meet inside the American Airlines Arena. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, LeBron James and the Cavs have had five road trips in South Florida since he bolted out of Miami and made his return to Ohio, and the Heat have won each of those games.
Meanwhile, another Cavs player in street clothes during the game has stirred up a late-game feud against some Heat players. J.R. Smith who is nursing a fractured right thumb had a heated exchange with Dion Waiters and the Heat when the former went after Miami small forward Rodney McGruder just before the final buzzer went off, ESPN wrote.
With less than two minutes remaining on the clock, McGruder made a put-back slam off a teammate’s miss and, on his way down, appeared to have slapped Cavs forward Channing Frye on his back. That did not sit well with J.R. Smith who had some choice words for McGruder and the other Heat players who came to their teammate’s defense.
Rodney McGruder finishing the win strong! ???? pic.twitter.com/aFxK064yFX
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 5, 2017
J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters were seen exchanging words, and you can be sure that those were not parting pleasantries. The players had to be separated at midcourt and J.R. Smith escorted by the Cavs security on his way to the locker room, Cleveland.com reported. Check out the YouTube video below.
While J.R. Smith was livid regarding the play, his teammate Channing Frye did not seem to have taken offense. Frye and Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue were quick to downplay the incident.
“It’s not really a story, man,” said Frye. “Tempers flared, it is what it is, it’s over now. The game’s over. They won. Congrats. We play another game on Monday. It’s all good.”
On his part, coach Lue said, “We got J.R. off the floor. He’s fiery, he’s feisty. He’s ready to get back on the floor. It happens throughout the course of a game. It’s nothing though.”
The Heat, on the one hand, came to McGruder’s defense.
“Rodney made a basketball play,” says Heat guard Wayne Ellington. “J.R. jumped up and made it a bigger deal than it had to be.”
“If anybody knows Rodney, he’s just out there competing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra added. “He’s not trying to show up anybody.”
Even J.R. Smith’s teammate Derrick Williams, who was a former Heat player before he was signed by the Cavs for the rest of the season, had some nice things to say about McGruder. Williams said that he knew his former teammate to be a tough guy who plays physical, and referred to him as a “good guy.”
The Cavs and the Heat square off anew on March 6, Monday at 7 p.m. ET, and the late-game drama in the last game makes it all the more interesting to watch.
[Featured Image By Lynne Sladky/AP Images]