Las Vegas Summer League quarterfinal recap: Heat defeat Cavaliers, 80-74

USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, two of the remaining eight teams still alive in Vegas squared off. The Miami Heat's victory was never in doubt, but Cavaliers made the final score respectable. A number of prospects made their case for inclusion on an NBA roster, including Cory Higgins and Jermaine Taylor

[Editor's note: This is the second post from guest writer Bruno Passos. -jrw]

The Summer Heat defeated the Summer Cavaliers 80-74 in a Vegas quarterfinal game that was not nearly as close as its final score might suggest. Both teams struggled on the offensive end today, but it was the Heat's disrupting D that made the difference and set the tone throughout.

The big story of the day was the absence of 2nd year pro Dion Waiters, who sat out in preparation for Team USA mini camp. Without Waiters, the Cleveland squad struggled to put the ball in the basket, scoring mostly on broken plays and isolations. The disfunction began with PG Matthew Dellavedova, an Australian product out of St Mary's like Spur Patty Mills, who was stifled by full-court presses and pick-and-roll traps all game long. Dellavedova had more turnovers (5) than points (3) and, lacking ball movement most of the afternoon, the Cavs offense sputtered.

It was clear early on what the priority was for the Miami Heat, who came out with a defensive intensity that frustrated the Cavs from the opening tip. Unfortunately, this prioritization was also evident on the other end, where Miami never really found a rhythm themselves. They got many of their points from the line (27-31), and seemed uncomfortable in transition, at one point blowing a simple four-on-one fastbreak.

With Waiters sitting out, the most intriguing player to watch was Jarvis Varnado, who looks to make an impact with the Heat next season. To his credit, Varnado didn't really disappoint, putting up a line of 13 points and 12 rebounds on only 7 shots, while showcasing a serviceable range of offensive moves. Miami went into him early and he seemed at ease with the ball in his hands. The Heat are already aware of the three-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year's ability on other end of the court, but if Varnado wants to see minutes next season he'll have to continue his offensive development.

The Cavs' lone bright spot was the play of wings Cory Higgins and Jermaine Taylor. Higgins had a quiet, but efficient game, scoring 17 points and going 8-8 from the line. Taylor, meanwhile, was a much-needed injection of energy for his team, pushing the tempo and creating his own shot when needed. He played literally to the last second of today's game, scoring on a buzzer beater that brought the deficit down to 6. Teams could certainly do worse than adding the 6'5'' Taylor as the 15th guy on their bench.

With the win, Miami advances to a semifinal matchup with Phoenix at 6pm on Sunday, in an aptly billed Summer League matchup of the Heat vs the Suns.

Game Highlights:

  • The game's most exciting play may have been the one that was waived off, but Jarvis Varnado's emphatic one-handed put-back dunk in the 3rd quarter nonetheless got the crowd back into the action, with their cheers drowning out the ref's play-killing (and buzz-killing) whistle. It's just a shame he was using his defender as a pogo stick at the same time.

  • Jermaine Taylor started the game with an impressive alley-oop reverse layup, displaying athleticism and a good awareness for where the hoop was. He later beat the shot clock on a step-back 3, and kept the Cavs in the game with an exciting and-1 fastbreak score.

  • 2nd round pick James Ennis provided another exciting play for the Heat, driving to the hoop in the second half and switching hands as he finished with a nifty left-handed finger roll. Ennis was mostly drafted for his athleticism and potential intangibles and plays like that affirm his potential.

  • The Cavs made a late surge to bring the game within single digits at the end. It was never a one-possession game, but watching the guys play to the final horn is one of the real treats of Summer League play.

Random Thoughts:

  • Justin Harper had a game-high 21 points for the Cavaliers, showing a solid inside-out game which included 2-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

  • Jarvis Varnado has a decent chance of contributing for the Heat next season - especially if they miss out on signing another big like Greg Oden. Varnado seems every bit the shot-blocker that Joel Anthony was/is/will ever be, but possesses far more potential on the offensive end, including a running hook went to multiple times today. He also seemed at ease playing away from the basket, though it remains to be seen if that's a good thing or not.

  • Varnado's defense may benefit from his unique, Montgomery-Burnsian build, which includes a deceiving slouch and a 7'4'' wingspan that he manages to keep coiled until the right moment. With his drooping posture, Varnado joins James Posey and Samuel Dalembert in my team of dudes who are taller than they seem.

  • So-I tried thinking up two more players to round out the starting five of this elite squad, but drew a blank. If you can think of any other players to join this illustrious team of Quasimodos, comment below.

  • Former Nets first-round pick Damion James had a double-double for the Heat. He did everything teams already know he can do (rebound, exploit mismatches, be an all-around good teammate /human being), but may not have shown the missing skill sets he might need to get a look. I've liked James since his Texas days and would love to see him carve out a role on an NBA team.

  • The commentators spent two excruciating minutes deliberating whether or not Ray Allen's Game 6 dagger against the Spurs ranked among the top 5 shots in NBA history, shrugging off game-winners by Michael Jordan and Robert Horry. They then said his Jesus Shuttlesworth was the Atticus Finch of our time. Hooray for homers.

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