There’s not too much hate between LeBron James and the Miami Heat after all he’s done with the franchise in the last four years, but their will certainly be a bit of tension as he and the Cleveland Cavaliers face off against Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who need something to spark their season back to life after falling on some hard times recently.
After winning their first three games and five of the opening seven, the Heat have gone cold and are down to 13-16 this season including a terrible 13-16 at home. They haven’t been able to win back-to-back games since late November and are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. What’s worse is that Chris Bosh, averaging 21.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game isn’t going to be playing, which means it will once again be on Dwyane Wade.
Wade is having something of a resurgent season, scoring 22.8 points a night and often looking like a younger, less injured version of himself. But it’s not consistent, and he certainly isn’t getting the help he’s used to. Not from Luol Deng, who is averaging 14.3 points a night but needs to be a bit more consistent and not fall to single-digit scoring too many times, or from others like Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. Another big hit to them has been the injury to Josh McRoberts, who didn’t have the time to become the key piece he should have been.
The Cavaliers had a woeful start to the season, won eight games in a row, suffered a set back but were riding high recently, winning four of their last five during a home stand. But then came the news of Anderson Varejao tearing his Achilles, which means he’s out for the season. Varejao hasn’t been that good for the Cavaliers, but it’s a blow for a team without the best bench or depth situation in the league, despite their three stars, to lose a starting big man who did a decent job on both ends of the floor.
Less Varejao, for now, means more Tristan Thompson (8.8 points, 7.1 rebounds) and probably some more small ball and some center duties for Kevin Love. The Heat are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA if not the worst of them, so not having Varejao facing them might be helping out a little. Just a little bit, because their problems won’t be fixed because one player, probably not even the best big man for the Cavaliers, isn’t going to be playing.
LeBron James facing a team he led to four NBA finals and two championships will be the focus of this contest. James has done very well on Christmas games, and is averaging 25.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists a night, ranked in the top 5 of the league in points and assists. What will determine the end result has more to do with how much involved his teammates will be, not the number of points James will score.