A couple of hours after four Cavaliers fans handed out “Come Home LeBron” T-shirts outside Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday, LeBron James sent 20,000 Cleveland loyalists home like he usually does as a member of the Heat:
With James scoring 28 and Dwyane Wade adding 22, the Heat dumped Cleveland, 95-84, pushing James’ career record to 10-1 against his former team and extending Miami’s winning streak to eight.
This was pretty impressive: During a 9:20 stretch — from the point at which 2:21 remained in the second quarter until 5:01 remained in the third — James on his own outscored the Cavaliers, 15-13, with no other Heat player scoring during that stretch.
Cleveland was undone by horrible shooting: 34.9 percent, compared to 48.6 by the Heat, which entered leading the league at 51.7.
James was relatively quiet early (five points over the first 21 minutes, but also five assists) before coming to life late in the first half with a thunderous dunk in transition and a driving layup and free throw.
He scored the Heat’s first eight points of the second half on a layup, a dunk off a Rashard Lewis pass in transition, two free throws and a jumper.
Mario Chalmers’ free throw ended James’ personal 15-point streak, but James then added a three-pointer, and later, a free throw, as the Heat went to the fourth ahead, 70-60.
Throw in eight assists, eight rebounds and three steals, and this was another magnificent night for James, who shot 9 for 19 but actually saw his shooting percentage drop from 60.9 percent.
James can now turn his attention to hosting teammates for an afternoon Thanksgiving meal at his home in Akron.
More fans cheered than booed James when he was introduced before the game, hoping to convince him that he would be embraced if he returns to the Cavaliers as a potential free agent next summer.
But once the game started, some of those in attendance booed James every time he got the ball. Some cheered after James baskets, only to be drowned out by more derision.
It was a difficult decision for these Ohioans, to be sure. Do we cheer to prove we have forgiven him and beg him to please, pretty please come back next summer? Or do we boo to punish him for bolting four years ago?
The crowd clearly couldn’t come to any sort of unanimous decision.
Wade was brilliant early, scoring the Heat’s first eight points. He added 10 in the fourth and closed 10 for 14 from the field.
A lineup featuring Wade and four reserves was again very good, transforming a six-point first quarter deficit into a three-point lead.
The Heat (12-3) led by seven at halftime and was plus-18 with Wade on the floor in the first half.
Coach Erik Spoelstra stuck with Michael Beasley for an unusually long period in the first half (11-plus minutes) even though he missed his only two shots from the field during that stretch. But he made four three throws during that stint, grabbed five rebounds and played with great energy.
Beasley logged 13 more minutes in the second half, found his offensive rhythm and finished with 17 points and nine boards.
Chris Bosh had a quiet night, with six points and six rebounds, but played well defensively against Cleveland center Andrew Bynum. Bynum, who complained this week that he has sharp knee pain whenever he jumps, scored two baskets in the first 1:30, then didn’t score again.
Cleveland (4-11) got very little offensively from a starting lineup that was outscored 63 to 26 by Heat starters.
Point guard Kyrie Irving struggled, missing 13 of 19 shots on a 16-point night. And Cleveland’s starting forwards, Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson, combined for just six points.
Haslem, who had expected to play Wednesday in Battier’s absence, began the season as a starter before missing two games with back spasms.
Haslem said Wednesday morning that he understood being yanked from the lineup because “the three games that I missed, we started the game with more energy. It’s a situation where we have a good rotation going and I don’t want to disrupt the flow of what these guys have going.”