When the greatest teams in NBA history come to mind, the 1991-1992 Cleveland Cavaliers are probably somewhere near the bottom of the list.
OK, fine. They aren’t even a footnote on that index.
But for one night, 24 years ago, the Cavs played like one of the best of all-time.
On Dec. 17, 1991, Cleveland defeated Miami in what still stands as the NBA’s most lopsided regular season victory in league history, mopping the floor with the Heat, 148-80, a 68-point beat down.
The Cavaliers’ epic defeat of Miami topped the NBA’s previous mark, 162-99, a Los Angeles Lakers’ trouncing of the Golden State Warriors in 1972.
Only the 1997-1998 version of the Indiana Pacers has come close recently, routing the Portland Trailblazers by 65 on Feb. 2, 1998.
Sure, the Cavs’ rivalry with the Heat has only recently grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to some guy named LeBron James, but who knew Cleveland’s link to Miami extended far beyond some kid from Akron taking his talents to South Beach – only to later return home to attempt to bring a title to the championship-starved city of Cleveland? Instead, it appears the Cavaliers had fired the first shot back in the early 90’s.
On that night, Cleveland was led by one of their all-time greats, Mark Price, who knocked down 80 percent of his shots en route to an 18-point night, which tied John Battle for a game-high.
Brad Daugherty and Henry James added 17 points, while Hot Rod Williams, who recently passed away from cancer, added 16 bench points.
Only two Miami players would reach double-digits on this night, Steve Smith (15 points) and Kevin Edwards (10), as Cleveland held the Heat to just 35 percent from the field.
“I don’t know what we played, but it wasn’t basketball,” the Heat’s Glen Rice told reporters after the game.
While the landslide victory was just the Cavs’ 13th win that season, Cleveland finished the season strong, going 44-17 after the cooling of the Heat, finishing behind the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics in the race for the East’s best record.
As for Miami, the Heat sputtered to a 38-44 record in 1991-1992, finishing as the eight-seed in the East and losing the Bulls in the first-round of the NBA’s playoffs in 1992.
Of course, it was the Bulls, once again, ending the Cavs’ playoff run, beating Cleveland in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to advance to the NBA Finals, where Jordan led Chicago over the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
As if Jordan hadn’t traumatized the city of Cleveland enough.
Twenty-five years later, the current incarnation of the Cavaliers, led by James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, certainly has the talent to challenge the team’s record for largest margin of victory.
But the city of Cleveland would settle for the 2015-2016 Cavs being written into a different place in the NBA’s record books – the place where champions are etched.
After all, the Heat already got their revenge.