Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cleveland Cavaliers 92 at Miami Heat 91 - January 25, 2010

After a week of hockey, it was time to return to the hardwood here in Miami. The Heat were hosting Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in what promised to be a classic. After spending the afternoon in downtown Miami, I took the Metromover over to American Airlines Arena to watch Lebron for the first time and was not disappointed.

The Arena

The American Airlines Arena (Triple A to the locals) is located in downtown Miami, across Biscayne Boulevard from the Freedom Tower and a short walk from either the Freedom Tower or Park West Metromover stations. Not to be confused with the American Airlines Center in Dallas, the arena just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

There is one main entrance that fronts Biscayne Boulevard, but the main ticket office is on the north side of the arena. The Heat have a variable ticket pricing plan with 3 game types: hot, hotter, and hottest. I'm not sure how a Nets-Heat game can be considered "hot" but I'll not quibble with the marketing. For the hotter and hottest games there are 14 ticket price options but the hot games only have 11 price levels as it seems like some of the crappy seats are not even sold. Naturally the Cavaliers are a "hottest" game and a seat in the first row of the upper deck was $85. Whatever the case, I suggest you understand the ticket options before buying from others as there are significant differences between games and levels (for example, the $85 ticket is only $40 for a "hot" game). You should know that the 400 sections are only at the ends of the court and sit almost on top of the 300 level.

Once inside, I noticed the seating colors matched those of the Heat, with red and orange seats painted to resemble a flame. I always like it when there is some thought put into the arrangement of the seats and this place might be the most interesting.

The Heat have been a successful team over the past 10 years and have a good collection of banners, including the 2006 NBA championship banner, pictured below. Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway have retired numbers hanging from the rafters as well.

Given the limited space on a downtown location, it is not surprising that the concourse was relatively narrow. There are a number of smaller food stands on the main level, but the upper level had few concessions which resulted in long waits at halftime. There is a designated driver program which saves you $4.50 on a small pop.

The scoreboard is unique in that it is 4 separate screens which resemble oversized televisions. Above these screens is a circular LED board that displays the score and player stats. Inside is a large silver contraption that looks like it was stolen from a sci-fi film set.

I think this arena is pretty good for basketball - the front rows of the 300 sections are close enough, but I'd avoid the 400 level. If you can afford the 100 level, more power to you. Regardless, worth a visit if you are in the Miami area.

The Game

This was a great game that was the main highlight on ESPN all evening. It was really LeBron vs D-Wade - the rest of the players were just a supporting cast for much of the time.

After a dull 1st quarter that had Miami leading 32-22, the 2nd period exploded when Wade and LeBron went one-on-one for several possessions. With Cleveland down 35-26, James scored 9 quick points as part of an 11-1 run. The two stars then began their little game within the game, as they traded points for 3 minutes that left Miami up 47-44 and the crowd energized. We knew we were watching something fun, but after some of the other players scored a couple for each team, Wade hit a jumper and then a 3 to make it 54-47 with 6.6 seconds left. James quickly ran down and made his own three like it was the easiest thing in the world and it was 54-50 at the half, with Wade scoring 30 for Miami.

James was called for charging here

The fans needed to catch their breath as well - my recap can't do those few minutes of basketball justice - it was really thrilling. The third quarter was highlighted by Michael Beasley's putback slam and alley-oop from Wade, but the Cavaliers remained close and we went to the last period with Miami up 69-67.

Midway through the 4th, Udonis Haslem scored on 3 straight possessions to give Miami a 6-point bulge and force the Cavaliers into a time out.

Whatever Mike Brown said worked as Cleveland scored 7 straight points to take an 88-87 lead. After the two O'Neals (Jermaine for Miami, Shaquille for Cleveland) traded baskets, Haslem drove for a layup to give the Heat the one-point advantage with a minute to go.

Everyone knew that it would boil down to James vs Wade now. But LeBron missed a 3, and Wade was fouled immediately upon getting the rebound. But amazingly, Wade missed both shots and Cleveland was still alive. With 25 seconds left, James' shot was blocked by Wade who then took the ball down the court, guarded by James. With 6 seconds left, he tried a behind-the back pass that James easily intercepted, racing back to the basket where he was fouled, falling to the floor where he lay for a couple of minutes.

The crowd was quiet wondering if King James was seriously hurt, but he recovered and sunk both shots to make it 92-91. The winning shot is shown below.

Miami had one chance left, but Wade, again guarded by James, missed the shot and the visitors walked away with the win.

Great game although the ending was anti-climatic with all the free throws. Wade blamed himself for the loss, and it is true that Miami should have won if they had played normal basketball, but the fans were entertained regardless.


Nice to see Don Shula and Dan Marino in the house - they were both featured on the big screen and cheered heartily. Ex CFL-star Tracy Ham, a Gainesville native, was also shown but he mostly received a few shrugs among a smattering of applause.

There was a promotion at halftime that ranks as one of the worst that I have ever seen. Sponsored by Kia, the randomly-selected contestant has 25 seconds to make a free throw, a 3-point shot, and a half-court shot. The prize: a Kia car. I can't imagine someone making all 3 in such a limited time, but when the "randomly" selected contestant turns out to be a petite woman who can't even hit the hoop from the free throw line, I gotta wonder what the point is. Make the promotion entertaining Kia!

I took transit from a suburban station to the game but there is street parking around - the lot across the street was charging $20 4 hours before the game though. There are meters in the area as well. The Metromover from downtown is free, so the best plan is to park near one of those stations and take it to the arena. This should help you miss the traffic jam after the game as well.

It's funny how many people left the ticket window in front of me empty-handed at 3pm on game day. I guess they don't go to many games, but you are not going to find a pair for less than $80 for this tilt from the box office. I was fortunate to be traveling alone, so I got a reasonably good seat, but at least 4 couples in front of me left without purchasing anything. Hope they found a friendly neighborhood scalper later.


LeBron ended up signing with Miami after the season. It was not surprising to anyone who saw this game as he and Wade clearly had some chemistry. Whether it can work when they are on the same team remains to be seen.



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