James spurned the Cavs in the offseason, taking his talents to South Beach, and made his much-anticipated return to Cleveland in a 118-90 blowout at Quicken Loans Arena back on Dec.2, scoring 38 points with eight assists and five rebounds. The only boos James will hear this time around will be towards the visiting team.
The sizzling Heat have won a season-high nine straight games and are starting to live up to their expectations. They are unbeaten in their last five games in south Florida and opened a quick homestand with a 96-84 triumph over New Orleans on Monday. James' sidekick, Dwyane Wade, scored a game-high 32 points and Chris Bosh finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds for Miami, which improved to 11-3 at home.
"They really dictated the game to us," Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They slowed the tempo down. We couldn't get into a flow with consecutive stops and get out into the open court. We didn't let that frustrate us."
James scored 13 of his 20 points in the third quarter and dished out seven assists. The Heat last won nine straight from March 20 to April 7, 2010, and haven't won 10 in a row since Feb. 12 - March 8, 2006. Wade has scored at least 25 points in the past six contests and is averaging 30.2 ppg during the stretch.
Cleveland has lost eight straight overall and nine consecutive games on the road, including Sunday's 106-77 rout at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Anthony Parker scored 12 points and Daniel Gibson had 11 to lead the Cavaliers, who scored only 32 points in the second half. Anderson Varejao had a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with seven points in defeat. Oklahoma City outscored the Cavaliers in the paint by a 56-28 margin and had a 29-11 advantage on the fast break.
"Right now, my biggest concern is those guys in that locker room. I'm not thinking about Miami or the next game, it's just about getting [my] guys to start understanding a little bit more of what we have to do as a team," said Cavs head coach Byron Scott.
On a more uplifting note, the Cavs lead the league in bench scoring per game, averaging 43.0 ppg. Cleveland will also visit Indiana on the road swing and is 3-10 as the guest this season.
Cleveland has still won nine of the past 11 meetings with Miami, which is winless in its last three as the host in this series.