While the Miami Heat came up short in one of their toughest matchups to date, they’ve mostly had their way against LeBron James’ former team.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, though, have been playing well of late.
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The Heat look to continue their recent domination of the visiting Cavaliers, who seek a sixth win in seven games Saturday night.
Miami (16-6) has dropped three of five after falling 90-84 at Eastern Conference-leading Indiana on Tuesday. James had 17 points and 14 rebounds but shot a season-worst 37.5 percent (6 of 16) in a rematch of last year’s conference finals.
“Anytime you get into this kind of a slugfest with them, where you’re down six to eight points, it feels like it’s a 20-point lead,” Chris Bosh said. “We know they’re a good team. We know what their goals are, we know what our goals are, we want to keep building to be a complete team for the spring.”
The Heat would appear to have a good chance to bounce back against the Cavaliers (9-13), whom they have limited to an average of 93.8 points in an eight-game winning streak in the series. Miami is 11-1 against Cleveland, including 6-0 at home, since James switched teams before the 2010-11 season.
He had 28 points, eight boards and eight assists as the Heat won 95-84 in Cleveland on Nov. 27.
“It’s always weird going against your old team, but there’s not much of a special meaning,” James said. “It is when I get to go back to Cleveland and get to see the fans … but not here.”
The Cavaliers have won a season-high three straight and five of six after pulling out a 109-100 victory at Orlando on Friday. Kyrie Irving led the way with 31 points and Dion Waiters added 21 off the bench as Cleveland improved to 2-10 on the road.
The Cavaliers are averaging 102.4 in their wins compared to just 87.9 in their losses.
“We’re starting to develop our identity as a great team, especially when things aren’t going our way offensively,” Irving said. “We’re not doing as well as we want on the road, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Irving, averaging a team-best 21.0 points, has totaled 68 on 55.3 percent shooting in the last two games. The Cavaliers have gone 12-3 since the beginning of January when Irving scores at least 30, including 4-0 this season.
Irving, though, has failed to score more than 17 points in each of his six games against Miami, shooting just 37.9 percent.
Despite Friday’s win, the Cavaliers rank near the bottom of the NBA with 91.7 points per game as the visiting team. The Heat, set to open a season high-tying five-game homestand, are 9-2 on their own court.
“We’re going to take advantage of every opportunity we get, at home or on the road,” James said. “Just happy to be back. It’s going to be fun in front of our home fans once again (Saturday) night, and we’re looking forward to putting on a show.”
The Cavaliers may need to keep Chris Andersen off the glass if they hope to have a shot, as Miami is 9-0 when he pulls down at least five boards.