Seven in double figures as Cavs scorch the HeatSeconds before the opening tip, LeBron James pulled Chris Bosh close and hugged his former teammate.
The pleasantries ended there.
From then on, James treated the Miami Heat like any other team.
James scored 18 points against his former teammates and Cleveland had six others in double figures as the Cavaliers beat the Heat 113-93 Wednesday night for their 14th win in 15 games.
Timofey Mozgov scored 20 and Tristan Thomson 17 in Cleveland’s final home game before the All-Star break. The Cavs, who have climbed in the standings after a sluggish start, will play at Chicago on Thursday before the season’s extended respite.
With the win, the Cavs avenged an emotional Christmas Day loss in Miami - James’ first game against the team he led to two NBA titles and four straight Finals. Cleveland is a very different team these days, improved by two major trades and James again playing at his unrivaled level.
James said this matchup wasn’t as moving as the previous one with the Heat.
“There’s still going to be memories when I see my guys, any one of the teammates I had when I won a championship or even lost a championship, because we gave so much to each other and we sacrificed so much,’’ he said. “But, obviously, what we’re trying to do here is get better and we don’t want to waste an opportunity - and it starts with me.’’
Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat, who were without All-Star Dwyane Wade for the seventh straight game because of a strained right hamstring.
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love sat out most of the second half with a right eye injury after he was accidentally poked by Mario Chalmers. Love was reaching for a rebound when he was swiped by Chalmers with 9:48 left in the third quarter. Love went down immediately in extreme pain, and as he was checked by the medical staff, his teammates looked on with concern.
The Cavs said Love has a corneal abrasion, but he will travel with the team and undergo further examination Thursday.
In recent days, Love has been dragged into a confusing social media storm after James posted a message on Twitter that seemed to be directed at the power forward. Now, he’s dealing with an injury that had him trying on goggles in the locker room.
Cleveland built a 26-point lead in the first half, allowed Miami to climb back within 12 in the third before the Cavs finally put away the Heat.
The Heat dropped to 22-30, not unexpected but certainly not the standard to which Miami’s players are accustomed. Bosh said his expectations for the second half are simple.
“I don’t even want much,’’ he said. “All I’m asking is to be healthy and have all our guys out there. I can live with the rest. That’s what makes it difficult. If we just have our guys out there and if we can have a unit and consistency in the lineup, that’s all I want.’’
Early on, James was intent on reminding the Heat how much they miss him, and perhaps prove to Whiteside that he’s more than a “good player’’ - a comment uttered by the young center recently. James was aggressive, blowing past defenders and showing an explosiveness that was missing before he took two weeks off in January.
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