LeBron James has a winning record against all but four NBA franchises throughout his career.
Though the Miami Heat is not among those four (Golden State, San Antonio, Houston and Denver) there is something we here on South Beach can brag about. It’s the fact King James is 4-12 all-time as a visitor to AmericanAirlines Arena – the worst road record against any team in his career.
The last time James, a four-time MVP, beat the Heat here was Jan. 25, 2010, six months before he left Cleveland to form the Big 3 with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
In the time since, Wade teammed up with James to win two championships and make four trips to the Finals, left the Heat for his hometown of Chicago, reunited with James in Cleveland at the start of this season before getting traded back to Miami last month when the Cavaliers pressed the reset button with their roster. James, meanwhile, has continued his dominance, going to seven straight Finals.
So, Tuesday’s game between the eighth-seeded Heat (39-35) and third-seeded Cavaliers (44-29) has plenty of juicy storylines – not the least of which is that this could also be the last time Wade 36, and James, 33, face each other.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a great atmosphere on Tuesday,” Wade said after the Heat’s loss in Indiana on Sunday. “Our arena is going to be excited for this game. I’m sure they want to continue to play well. Our team will be excited for it. And I always look forward to the matchups. Obviously for me it’s about trying to get a W for us as we come down the stretch versus a very good team. So, we look forward to it.”
James, who sat out both times the Cavaliers played in Miami last season and one of the two times the season prior, has not missed a game this season. He’s averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and a career-high 9.1 assists per game.
Wade, a three-time NBA champion like James who is 14-15 all-time versus his close friend, was part of both of the Cavaliers wins over the Heat the first two times the teams met this season including a 91-89 Cavs win in Cleveland back on Jan. 31.
Nine days later, Wade, who left $8 million on the table when he had his contract bought out in Chicago back in September so he could sign with the Cavaliers, was shipped to the Heat for a heavily protected second round pick in 2024.
Miami has gone 10-9 since.
The Cavaliers, who made three other trades at the deadline to rebuild its roster for another run at the Finals with James, have gone 13-7 and improved both its offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. Cleveland ranks third in the league in offensive rating (114.5) and 18th in defensive rating (109.1) since the trade deadline. Before Feb. 8, Cleveland ranked fifth in offensive rating (109.3) and 29th in defensive rating (109.9).
Another boost for Cleveland has been the return of All-Star forward Kevin Love. The Cavaliers have gone 3-0 since Love’s return from a broken bone in his hand and are 31-20 when he plays this season. Cleveland went 9-8 without Love over the previous six weeks.
“Kevin, he spreads the floor for them. He’s an All-Star,” Wade said. “When you’re down an All-Star it makes things tough. When you add him back in there, his ability to shoot the ball, rebound the ball, etcetera, it makes them a tough team. Definitely, they’re tough to cover, especially the way they’re playing, the way he’s passing and the way he’s shooting.”
The Heat, which has never faced Cleveland in the postseason, would likely have to move into sixth place in the East to face the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. James has never lost a first round playoff series in his career and is 48-7 all-time in the first round. He’s won 21 consecutive first round games dating back to a Game 4 loss to the Knicks in 2012.
The Heat enter Monday trailing the seventh-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (39-34) by a half game, the sixth-seeded Washington Wizards (40-33) by 1 1/2 games, and both fifth-seeded Indiana (43-31) and fourth-seeded Philadelphia (42-30) by four games with eight games left in the regular season.
Miami plays six of its final eight games at home including five against sub .500 teams. Milwaukee and Washington both face tougher schedules with the Bucks playing six of its last nine on the road including five games against teams above .500 and the Wizards playing five of its last nine on the road including four with winning records.
LEBRON’S WORST RECORDS ON THE ROAD
at Heat 4-12 (.250)
at Rockets 4-10 (.286)
at Spurs 6-15 (.286)
at Pelicans 5-10 (.333)
at Jazz 5-10 (.333)
at Blazers 6-8 (.428)
at Celtics 17-21 (.447)
at Bulls 17-21 (.447)