Because of what follows, this is one the Miami Heat had to have.
Fortunately, the Cleveland Cavaliers arrived right on schedule.
Making it 16 consecutive victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines, the Heat moved to a 126-110 decision Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to open a five-game homestand that follows with playoff-race challenges against the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets.
And it gets even tougher from there, with a four-game trip to follow to Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Milwaukee and Washington.
So after a few uneven early moments, the Heat moved to a 94-83 lead after the third quarter, on the way to their fourth consecutive victory, one shy of their longest streak of the season.
"We've been playing good basketball for a while," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We just weren't able to close out some of those close games.
"It's nice obviously to get the result."
Sparked by the power of Bam Adebayo (17 points, 7 rebounds), the versatility of Justise Winslow (16 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) and the shooting of Josh Richardson (4 of 6 on 3-pointers), the Heat were able to hold their ground at No. 8 in the Eastern Conference on a night the Hornets and Orlando Magic remained one game behind with victories.
"It felt great out there tonight," Winslow said. "I'm glad it's showing a little more in the box score."
The Heat put it away on a seven-point possession — yes, seven — by Rodney McGruder midway through the fourth quarter. McGruder converted a 3-pointer, was flagrantly fouled by Kevin Love, made the ensuing free throw and then, with the Heat retaining possession, converted another three.
"That's the fastest you can get buckets in this league," Spoelstra said.
The Heat trailed 29-28 at the end of the opening period, with the game tied 57-57 at halftime, the third consecutive game the Heat found themselves in a tie at the intermission, having gone on in the previous two games to victories over the Atlanta Hawks and Hornets.
"How can you not have fun right now, to be in a playoff race?" Spoelstra said.
"I want our guys to have fun with this."
Five degrees of Heat from Friday's game:
1. At long last . . . healthy: Friday's game, with just over a month left in the regular season, was the first time the Heat did not list a player sidelined with an injury, in the wake of Dion Waiters missing the first half of the season following last year's ankle surgery, Goran Dragic missing two months following knee surgery and James Johnson missing recent time with a shoulder sprain.
Dragic and Hassan Whiteside again played off the bench, with Spoelstra staying with the starting lineup of Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Richardson, Winslow and Waiters.
The Heat's inactives were two-way players Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten, with Robinson returned to the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce earlier in the day. Maten remains with the Heat.
"Obviously that's the ideal scenario," Spoelstra said of complete health. "That rarely happens in this league for anybody. But a lot of things are starting to come together right now."
2. Dragic boost: With Dragic continuing with the second unit it balanced the scoring, with it no longer having to be Dwyane Wade or bust.
Dragic, who had missed the previous three games with a strained left calf, scored nine points in his initial nine-minute stint, shooting 4 of 5. He closed with 11 points in 15:39.
"You see that he brings something off the dribble that we need," Spoelstra said.
Said Dragic, "I still need to get my legs under me. I just need to get a little more confidence in my legs."
The second unit also got a defensive boost from Derrick Jones Jr., who had a pair of dramatic first-half dunks.
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3. Both ends: Olynyk had several defensive moments, including several in the Heat's zone, proving to be a nuisance on the wing on the back line, in addition to finishing with 15 points.
"His confidence has really grown," Spoelstra said. "I think the biggest thing right now is he's figured out a way, we've all tried to figure out a way, where he'd be effective defensively for us. But he's really helping on that end, which allows us now to be even more dynamic and versatile offensively."
4. Uneven again: It was another uneven effort for Waiters, finishing with three points on 1-of-3 shooting in 17:22.
Spoelstra going in stressed the need for patience.
"He's made a lot of progress," Spoelstra said. "It's not something that you see from one game to the next. We look at it how he was moving five weeks ago compared to how he's moving right now. And that's gotten better.
"It takes time to build your own rhythm, build the shape, your own conditioning, and then the rhythm with other players. That takes time."
5. Knight time: Having traversed the NBA from Phoenix to Houston and now to Cleveland over the past year, Brandon Knight had quite the homecoming, closing with 15 points and six assists.
The Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest product converted his first three 3-point attempts and put together his second double-digit scoring game since joining the Cavaliers at the trading deadline.