Cavaliers-Heat Preview

For the first time, LeBron James will be facing his former team

as an NBA champion.

James has never lost a game in his new home to the lowly

Cleveland Cavaliers and will try to help the Miami Heat improve to

6-0 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday night.

The acrimonious departure two seasons ago of Cleveland’s top

overall pick in 2003 will always be notable in the career of James,

who finally added his name to the list of great NBA champions last

season with his play during the Heat’s run to the title.

Wearing the mantle of champion is a new burden for James. He and

Miami (9-3) showed signs of difficulty in handling that challenge

Wednesday in blowing an 18-point lead before hanging on for a

113-106 overtime home victory over Milwaukee.

“Guys get up to play us and we understand that,” James said.

“Guys are in this league for a reason.”

Cleveland (3-9) could be up for this game as it tries for its

first win in five tries in Miami. James has only been needed to

average 21.8 points in four previous home meetings against his

former club, with the Heat prevailing each time thanks to the depth

of talent surrounding him.

The Cavaliers, however, travel to South Beach without the

services of Kyrie Irving, who has replaced James as the face of the

franchise after being drafted first overall in 2011. Irving is out

with a broken finger.

Jeremy Pargo picked up the slack in Cleveland’s first game

without Irving with a season-high 28 points in Wednesday’s 92-83

victory over Philadelphia. Pargo was held to 15 two nights later as

the Cavs dropped their sixth straight on the road, 108-104 to

Orlando.

Cleveland allowed Orlando to shoot 50.0 percent. Opponents are

shooting an Eastern Conference-high 49.0 percent against the

Cavs.

“Again, we allowed another team to shoot a high percentage

tonight, and those guys shot the ball pretty well,” coach Byron

Scott said.

Led by James, Miami leads the NBA at 49.2 percent from the

floor.

One positive Friday for the Cavs was the 25 points from Dion

Waiters, who is second among all rookies with a 14.8 scoring

average. Waiters has totaled 11 assists in the two contests without

Irving for his best two-game stretch.

Anderson Varejao had 19 points and 17 boards for his third

straight double-double as he gets ready to bang inside with Heat

big man Udonis Haslem.

Haslem became Miami’s all-time franchise leader in rebounding

Wednesday. He surpassed Alonzo Mourning with 4,814 boards.

“Words can’t really describe what I feel right now, just coming

from where I came from, going through the situation that I had to

go through, being undrafted, going to Europe, I had to fight to

make the team,” Haslem said.

The Heat continue to get excellent production from Chris Bosh,

who had 24 points and 18 boards Wednesday. He’s averaging 20.0

points – his highest in three seasons with Miami.

Miami’s 5-0 start at home is its best in team history.