MIAMI • In the fourth quarter on Saturday night, Miami Heat fans taunted their former star player, chanting "LeBron is tired".
They were reacting to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who rested LeBron James and suffered the consequences, falling 84-99 to Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
In James' 13-year National Basketball Association career, it was the earliest in a season that he sat out without an announced injury.
But, after he played 45 minutes in New Orleans late on Friday night, the Cavs opted to have him on their bench, not in uniform.
LOOKING AFTER THEIR STAR
We're just thinking long term and being conscious of taking care of LeBron... Believe me, it's tough sitting him out.
We sorely need him.
DAVID BLATT, Cavaliers coach, on why he rested LeBron James
James, fifth in the league in minutes played, smiled when he heard the taunt but it was not a laughing matter to his team-mates.
"It's totally different," Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith said of playing without the 30-year-old.
"He's like a coach on the floor on top of being the best player."
Cavaliers coach David Blatt said James was "a little sore" but not injured. "Tough game (on Friday) night (in an overtime loss to the Pelicans) and we had a short turnaround," he said when asked why the star was rested.
"We're just thinking long term and being conscious of taking care of LeBron. I had to force the issue (with him). We got to the team hotel at 5.30 in the morning.
"It would have been the same (resting him even) if it were any other team in the NBA.
"Believe me, it's tough sitting him out. We sorely need him."
Without James, the Cavs were no match for the Heat, who have defeated Cleveland 10 straight times in Miami.
The Heat (12-6), who got a game-high 19 points each from shooting guards Dwyane Wade and Tyler Johnson, pulled into a virtual tie with Cleveland (13-7) in a tightly packed Eastern Conference.
The Heat also got a big boost from Goran Dragic who had 17 points and eight assists.
The point guard, in his first full season with the Heat, said he is making the needed adjustments.
"I know where I need to pass the ball to D-Wade, where I need to pass to CB (forward Chris Bosh)," Dragic said.
"It's a working process. It needs time," he noted.
Cleveland were led by forward Richard Jefferson, who started in place of James and had 16 points.
But the Cavs never seriously threatened after the first quarter, and Blatt said that was predictable.
"We knew this game would be a challenge for us," he said. "We suffered from those two facts - LeBron didn't play and it was a tough, tough back-to-back."