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
Cleveland allowed Orlando to shoot 50.0 percent. Opponents are
shooting an Eastern Conference-high 49.0 percent against the
“Again, we allowed another team to shoot a high percentage
tonight, and those guys shot the ball pretty well,” coach Byron
Led by James, Miami leads the NBA at 49.2 percent from the
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.