Heat-Cavaliers Preview

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have delivered nearly identical

performances in their first two meetings this season. Cleveland,

though, has gotten the better of Miami both times.

With a season-high nine-game winning streak on the line, James

and the Cavaliers look to win their third straight over Wade and

the Heat on Thursday night when the superstars face off at Quicken

Loans Arena for the first time this season.

Miami (24-25) and Cleveland (39-11) have played two intense

games, with James and the Cavaliers prevailing in both, including a

92-91 victory on Jan. 25.

James and Wade each scored 32 points in that contest, but Wade

scored only two in the second half and missed two critical free

throws in the final minute, setting the stage for James’ winning

free throws with 4.1 seconds left.

The first game between the teams was just as hard fought. James

scored 34 points and Wade had 36 in Cleveland’s 111-104 victory

Nov. 12.

“I understand the excitement between the two superstars and I

understand how people can say our game is D-Wade versus ‘Bron,”

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said, “but at the end of the day I think

both of them would trade a win for outdueling the other in a points

shootout.”

James and the Cavaliers are coming off a 105-89 victory over

Memphis on Tuesday, the third straight game in which they’ve held

their opponent to fewer than 90 points and the seventh straight in

which they’ve allowed fewer than 100.

James had 22 points and tied a career-high with 15 assists while

Shaquille O’Neal had 13 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.

The Grizzlies shot 38.0 percent as Cleveland stifled another

team. Opponents are shooting 38.9 percent in the last seven games

against the Cavaliers, which James attributes to the improved play

of O’Neal. Tuesday was the veteran center’s second consecutive

double-double and seventh of the season.

“He looks great,” James said. “He’s motivated. When Mo

(Williams) and Delonte (West) went down he decided to step his game

up, which we knew he could do. He’s just playing with a little

bounce in his step that he didn’t have at the start. But he had a

different mindset than we all thought. We all thought he was

playing slow, he was just saving himself for the second half of the

season.

“He tricked all of us, I guess.”

After defeating the Heat twice in Miami, the Cavaliers will look

to win their fifth straight at home over the Heat. Miami hasn’t

topped 90 points in any of those contests.

The Heat, who have dropped three straight and five of six, fell

below .500 for the first time this season with a 107-102 loss at

Boston on Wednesday. They shot 52.1 percent but were outrebounded

41-31 and allowed the Celtics to go on a 6-0 run to take an 88-78

lead with 6:36 remaining.

Wade, who finished with 30 points and 13 assists, cut the

deficit to 105-102 with 7 seconds left, but Boston hit two free

throws to secure the win.

That game was the first of eight of nine on the road for Miami,

which has lost five of its last seven away from home. The Heat

visit Chicago on Saturday before returning to Miami to face Houston

on Tuesday.

“This is a tough road trip we are on. We have to focus game to

game,” said Wade, whose right knee was wrapped in ice after

Wednesday’s defeat.

Wade, who shot 11 of 16 against the Celtics, had been held to 13

of 39 (33.3 percent) shooting in his previous two games.

The Heat haven’t lost four in a row since a seven-game slide

March 26-April 6, 2008.