clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Preview: Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers

Sports can be a very emotional thing for some fans.

In fact, some supporters get so caught up in their favorite teams that they lose perspective.

LeBron James is not Benedict Arnold or American Taliban John Walker Lindh but he is the most famous "traitor" in sports, a reviled figure in the Forest City that returns to Cleveland tonight for the first time since "The Decision" as his rudderless Miami Heat face a plucky Cavaliers club that has not completely fallen apart without the services of basketball's chosen one.

Of course James spurned the Cavs for South Beach by publicly announcing his divorce from the team in the much-hyped ESPN special "The Decision" back in July. The King chose South Beach and the chance to play with fellow "superstars" Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in an effort to win his elusive first NBA championship.

Although a pedestrian 7-10 heading into Thursday's action, the doomsday predictions that had the Cavaliers challenging the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for futility have been unfounded and Cleveland is currently holding down the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

James' Heat, meanwhile, aren't much better at 11-8 and those 70-win predictions are about to be rendered meaningless by the science of mathematics. James tried to soften what is expected to be a tough "homecoming" earlier in the week by thanking the fans of Cleveland for their support over the years.

"I think it's going to be very emotional," James said after practice earlier in the week. "I've got a lot of great memories in that city. I give a lot of thanks to that city, lot of thanks to those fans for giving me the opportunity to not only showcase my talent but grow from a young boy to a man."

James is also preparing for the worst, however.

"It's going to be tough, but I'm there to win a basketball game," he said. "I understand how passionate fans are about sports. I'm ready for whatever response that I'm going to get."

On the court Miami hasn't lived up to expectations. It has won two straight and three of four games since a three-game losing streak and was last in action on Wednesday versus Detroit. In the 97-72 victory over the Pistons, James scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Heat, who got 16 points apiece from Wade and Bosh.

Bosh also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out four assists. He has scored at least 20 points in seven of his last nine games. Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas will also make his return to the Forest City and is Cleveland's all-time leader in games played, rebounds and blocked shots.

Miami hopes to put the brakes on a four-game road losing streak and is just 2-5 away from south Florida this season.

Cleveland will wrap up a three-game homestand tonight with an emotional visit from its former savior. It is 1-1 on the residency and has dropped five of the last seven games, including Tuesday's 106-87 loss to the Boston Celtics.

Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao both scored 16 points for the Cavaliers, who got 13 points apiece fromMo Williams and Anthony Parker.

"They decided to come out and be a little bit more aggressive on both ends of the floor," Cleveland first-year coach Byron Scott said of Boston's play. "It's kind of like that boxing match where you get punched in the face and you want to see how you're going to react. I thought we staggered but we never really threw a punch back and that was pretty much the difference."

The Cavs are 4-5 at home this season and won all three meetings with Miami a season ago. They are 10-3 in the last 13 matchups with the Heat, who have lost five straight and eight of nine visits to Quicken Loans Arena.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.