for this game

Cavaliers-Heat Preview

Nov 12, 2009 - 6:44 AM By MATT BECKER STATS Senior Writer

Cleveland (4-3) at Miami (6-1), 8:00 p.m. EDT

In the ongoing drama surrounding next summer's free-agent class, rumors have swirled of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who have been teammates in All-Star games and the Olympics and are friends off the court, teaming up to form a mega-tandem.

For the time being, James is focused on winning with the Cleveland Cavaliers while Wade is trying to do the same with the Miami Heat.

With his team starting to find its rhythm after a sluggish start, James and the Cavaliers seek their sixth victory in seven games Thursday night when they visit Wade and a Heat team trying to open 7-1 for the first time in franchise history.

In nearly every arena James visits, the reigning league MVP has been bombarded with questions of potentially opting out of his contract at the end of this season and becoming a free agent.

Frustrated by the repeated questions about his future, James said prior to Wednesday's 102-93 win in Orlando he would no longer talk about the subject again this season.

"I think I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my teammates," he said. "It's just getting old. I'm focusing on this season, and this is going to be a really good season for us. I don't want any more distractions for my teammates, for my organization, for my family. This will be the last time I answer a free agent question for the rest of the year."

On the court, James' Cavaliers (5-3) have won five of six after opening the season with consecutive losses. The latest victory over the Magic was arguably their biggest.

Cleveland was unable to slow down Orlando center Dwight Howard in last season's Eastern Conference finals, and got eliminated in six games. To prevent that from happening again, the Cavs traded for Shaquille O'Neal in the offseason.

Although the 37-year-old center is no longer the unstoppable force he once was, he helped to justify the trade by limiting Howard to 11 points Wednesday and forcing him into foul trouble.

O'Neal finished with 10 points and four rebounds while James led the way with 36 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

O'Neal is now set to return to Miami for only the second time as an opponent since helping Wade and the Heat win the 2006 NBA championship.

Miami has won just three playoff games since then - all coming last season in a first-round exit to Atlanta - but is looking strong early in 2009-10.

The Heat (6-1) defeated Washington 90-76 on Tuesday, matching the 1999-2000 club for the best start in franchise history.

"It feels good to be winning," Miami guard Quentin Richardson said despite going scoreless against the Wizards.

Although the Heat are off to a fast start, they've only played two teams with winning records, splitting those contests. They feel this matchup against one of the early championship favorites is a significant test.

"You can say that Cleveland's one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference with Boston and Orlando," Miami point guard Mario Chalmers said. "We're just trying to prove ourselves, prove that we belong right up there with the best."

Wade scored 41 points Tuesday, the second time in three games the five-time All-Star has topped 40, both against Washington.

Wade was limited to 29 points or fewer in all four meetings with the Cavs last season, only one of which Miami won.

James averaged 31.8 points with one triple-double in the 2008-09 season series, and scored 80 total points in the two games in Miami.