Over the last few years, LeBron James has saved some of his best performances as a Miami Heat player for his returns to Cleveland and facing his former team, the scorn Cavaliers, who suddenly want their old franchise player back. That isn’t happening anytime soon, and so isn’t having it easy against the NBA champions, strolling to a 95-84 win, their 8th in a row.
James had one of those days that are average for him, but just show what an immense player he is – 28 points, 9-of-19 from the field, to go along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists. He is now 11-1 against the Cavs since ‘The Decision’ in 2010, but for the first time since leaving to Miami, there wasn’t a huge element of hate directed at him. Knowing he has a chance to opt out of his contract by the end of the season, suddenly it’s about trying to show him he’s welcome.
James himself hasn’t been very easy on the Cavs, nor have the Heat. They used a 20-5 run in the second quarter to put the game beyond doubt early on, using some suffocating defense against a team that is among the most disappointing in the league so far. From a team that’s thinking about making the playoffs, the Cavs have fallen to 4-11, this time without any injuries getting in the way, but with a dressing room atmosphere that could be better.
The Heat did an excellent job in stopping Kyrie Irving, limiting the Cavs’ star to 16 points on 6-of-19 from the field, as he continues to look pedestrian in a season that should be about him trying to show he belongs among the elite point guards in the NBA. The Cavs shot 34.9% from the field, turning the ball over 18 times. The bad news is that it’s nothing new, and they’ve been playing this bad most of the time this season.
One of the issues has been Dion Waiters, reportedly unhappy about his role on this team, and about the “friendship’ between Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, who according to him are playing “buddy ball”, ignoring him on the floor. Waiters came off the bench to score a team-high 24 points, but rumors also suggest the Cavs are looking for a team that will be willing to trade for Waiters, the sooner the better.
James wasn’t alone in the easy win. Dwyane Wade scored 22 points on a 10-for-14 night for him, marred only by his six turnovers. Michael Beasley, turning into the bench addition the Heat hoped he would, added 17 points and 9 rebounds. The troublesome forward is averaging 11 points per game for the Heat, doing exactly what they dreamed he would when they first took the risk on the talented player. These kind of risks are often the difference between being good and great at the end of the season.
It’s been less and less since the first time I was here. Nothing can be worse than that. Of late, there have been some cheers here. At the end of the day, he’s from Ohio. I think some fans are proud of that.