(Miami, FL) – With everything on the line, the Miami Heat (40-41) stayed alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a back-and-forth 124-121 overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers (51-30) on Monday night at American Airlines Arena.
“We knew this was going all the way down through the stretch,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said during his postgame press conference. “That’s one of the best regular season games, certainly this year in this building. It wasn’t necessarily going our way, but our group, those guys are so tough mentally.”
The Cavs, who played without the services of their superstars in small forward LeBron James and point guard Kyrie Irving, led by as many as 15 points early in the second quarter and were up 84-70 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
Heat shooting guard Josh Richardson was sensational on both ends of the court, going off for 19 points (8-of-14 from the field) to go along with six rebounds, an eye-opening five steals and four assists in 46 minutes of action.
Richardson, who amassed five steals for the second game in a row, has had an unreal 13 steals combined in his last three games.
“I think it was just keeping everybody locked in and starting everything on the defensive end,” Richardson said immediately after the victory. “We started out of the gate terrible on defense, so I was just trying to huddle the guys up, telling them to stay focused, lock in on this end and everything will work out.”
Although they gave up 121 points to the Cavs, the Heat stepped up down the stretch and were able to score 23 points off of 21 Cleveland turnovers.
Miami shooting guard Tyler Johnson came off the bench to lead the Heat in scoring with 24 points, five rebounds and four assists, while star center Hassan Whiteside racked up his 57th double-double of the season with 23 points, a game-high 18 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Although he fouled out in overtime, power forward James Johnson had 16 points and a team-high nine assists in 36 minutes. Point guard Goran Dragic had 16 points and six assists, while Wayne Ellington (12 points) made four of the team’s 12 three-point shots on the night.
For the Cavs, point guard Deron Williams got the start in place of Irving and lit up the scoreboard for a game-high 35 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds but had a cringeworthy 10 turnovers on offense.
Power forward Kevin Love had a double-double effort with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Channing Frye (3-of-5 from three-point range) and Kyle Korver (4-of-8 from three-point range) had 21 and 18 points, respectively.
On Wednesday night, the Heat will host the Washington Wizards (49-32) in their regular season finale. Miami must win or they will be eliminated from playoff contention, but also need to do some scoreboard watching on Wednesday as the Indiana Pacers (41-40) will host the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls (40-41) will host the Brooklyn Nets.
The Heat hold the tiebreaker over the Pacers based on Miami winning the regular season series with Indiana, but do not own the tiebreaker with the Bulls.
“I say we’re giving ourselves a chance, man. We dug ourselves a hole early this year, but these guys are so resilient and came out and fought hard every night,” Richarson said. “We put good runs together, and now we just keep reaping the benefits. We’ve just got to keep giving ourselves a chance next game.”
Wednesday night’s final regular season home game against Washington is scheduled to tip off shortly after 8:00 p.m. ET at American Airlines Arena and will be broadcast live locally on Fox Sports Sun.