for this game

LeBron feels the Heat in return to Cleveland, but Miami cruises

Dec 3, 2010 - 7:52 AM Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - They booed, they held signs and they cheered for Heat mistakes. The only thing Cavaliers fans couldn't do was get a little revenge.

In his first game back in Cleveland as a member of the Heat -- in his first game back since "The Decision" -- LeBron James scored a season-high 38 points with eight assists and five rebounds, and led Miami in a 118-90 rout of his former team.

James, an Akron native, spent his first seven NBA seasons with Cleveland before becoming a free agent this past summer. Instead of choosing to re-sign with the Cavaliers, James opted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat.

But the boos didn't rain down on James on Thursday because he chose another team, at least not totally. They also rained down because James chose another team through a much-hyped ESPN special -- "The Decision" -- in July.

The nature of James' departure from the Cavaliers prompted the team to increase security in preparation for James' return, and there were guards by the Heat bench throughout the game. But if anything, it was the Cavaliers who needed protection.

And if Cleveland fans hoped James and his new team fell flat, it didn't happen. James shot 15-of-25 and scored 24 points in the third quarter, while Wade almost posted a triple-double, going for 22 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. Bosh added 15 points as the Heat shot 56.6 percent in a third consecutive win.

"I can't say that I sensed this coming," admitted Head head coach Erik Spoelstra. "We've had an adverse week. The world was ready to come down on Heat Nation and now we have been able to put together three nice wins."

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were focused on winning a basketball game, but lost for the third time in four games. The other losses in that stretch were to East heavyweights Boston and Orlando.

Daniel Gibson sank 4-of-6 three-pointers and scored a team-high 21 points off Cleveland's bench.

The theory that James generated such ire because it was how he left -- not necessarily that he left -- gained credence during introductions. While fans booed James, they cheered for center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had played for the Cavaliers since they drafted him in 1996, then signed with Miami in July.

Fans had booed James during warmups and when he tossed powder in the air, as he so often used to do in Cleveland before tip-off. They continued to boo when James touched the ball, but James responded by making his first shot, a baseline jumper that gave Miami a 4-0 lead.

The Cavaliers responded with six points and were still in front went Antawn Jamison's three-point play made it a 17-12 game with 4:31 left in the first quarter.

But Miami quickly took control, going on a 16-0 run. James scored eight points in the rally, which helped the Heat take a 31-23 lead to the second quarter.

"I thought he played great. Simple as that," Cavs head coach Byron Scott said of James.

Cleveland battled back, getting within 36-31 on Ramon Sessions' three-point play with 8:20 left in the half. But a Wade dunk keyed a seven-point run, and Miami stretched its lead further late in the quarter. Two Joel Anthony free throws ended another seven-point burst and had the Heat leading by 20, and they rolled into the break with a 59-40 advantage.

Whatever hopes the Cavaliers had of a comeback all but ended in the third quarter, when James took over by shooting 10-for-12 from the floor. He scored nine points in a 13-0 Heat run that turned the game into a blowout.

James' three-pointer and three-point play ended the run, giving Miami a game- high lead of 38, 88-50, with 4:26 left in the period.

Miami held a 95-65 lead moving to the fourth, when James sat on the bench. Wade and Bosh joined him shortly thereafter, as the Heat cruised to their 12th win of the season.

"So many things went through my mind," James said of his approach to the game. "I have nothing bad to say about these (Cleveland) fans. It was seven great years. We grew from 17 wins in the year before I got here to the last two seasons I was here being the best team in the regular season. I understand their frustration and I was frustrated also because we didn't accomplish what we wanted to do at the end of the day. I wish this organization and these fans, which are great, the best."

Game Notes

James Jones scored 18 points off Miami's bench...Sessions finished with 11 points and seven assists for Cleveland, which shot 35.5 percent. Jamison and Mo Williams also finished with 11 points each.