Few booed, most politely cheered LeBron James, returning to the arena he won two NBA championships in. Despite the early festival, the focus from the home fans was on Dwyane Wade, delivering a vintage Christmas performance to lead the Miami Heat to a 101-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wade scored 31 points, most of them coming in the first half (24), to lead the Heat to a win that wasn’t just meaningful because of who it was against, but it can potentially serve as a jump start to their season which has fizzled to below the .500’s, partially because of the injury to Chris Bosh, but mostly because of their inconsistency on offense and their problems when rebounding the ball, something that remains from James’ time with the team.
Luol Deng helped out with 25 points and a hard effort in defending James, something Deng has been doing for a long time, mostly during his tenure with the Chicago Bulls. He has never actually been able to stop James or slow him down, but he gives them a hard enough effort each time and never really gives up when guarding him. James finished with 30 points and 8 assists, but as a bit too loose on the handle when throwing from deep and just like the rest of his teammates, didn’t really show up for the final quarter.
For the Cavaliers this was their first game since the season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao, starting with Kevin Love, Shawn Marion and LeBron James in the front court. David Blatt didn’t see the kind of defense he had hoped for. His team also lost the rebounding battles, which might help rush in a trade to bring in a center, or simply finally put Cleveland’s most efficient big man this season, Tristan Thompson, in the lineup. Playing with Chris Andersen and Shawne Williams seemed to be enough for the Heat to win most battles in the paint.