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Wade, Heat wreck James’ Miami homecoming

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MIAMI — LeBron James said he felt butterflies before facing his former team Thursday night.

After the game, all he felt was disappointment.

Guard Dwyane Wade scored 31 points, and forward Luol Deng added 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Miami Heat spoiled James’ homecoming, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-91 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“I have to give credit to Deng,” Wade said. “He played a hell of a game. To be able to guard the best player in the game (James) and then to be able to have the numbers he had on the other end of the floor … He was the player of the night.”

James, who led the Heat to two NBA titles in the past four years before bolting back to Cleveland as a free agent, scored 30 points and handed out eight assists.

“He was an enormous figure here,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said of James’ tenure with the Heat. “There are going to be feelings, excitement, emotion — you can’t look past that, but I thought he handled it well.”

James added, “It was very emotional and tough to play under these circumstances — very difficult.”

James was mostly cheered by the fans prior to the game. However, the Heat announced his name first and then quickly moved to the next player, not allowing much emotion to flow.

The Heat played a video tribute to James in the middle of the first quarter, and, when it was over, the fans gave him a standing ovation.

“I didn’t see it,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who was talking to his team during the tribute. “I will look forward to seeing it one day. We had an incredible run. (James) was a major part of it, and none of us have forgotten his contribution.

“I will look back on it with incredible pride that I coached one of the all-time greats.”

Wade, who shared a big hug with James just before tipoff, scored 24 of his points in the first half. He made 10 of 16 shots in the first half and two of 12 in the second.

“I missed too many shots in the second half,” Wade said. “I have to work on that.”

Miami, which earned its 11th consecutive win in the series with Cleveland, improved to 6-10 at home this season. The Heat (14-16) won for just the second time in their past eight home games.

Cleveland (17-11) got 25 points from guard Kyrie Irving and 14 from forward Kevin Love. Since starting the season 5-7, the Cavaliers are 12-4.

Miami got off to a good start, winning the first quarter 30-27. Both teams shot better than 56 percent in the opening period.

The Heat led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter and took a 62-49 lead into the break. Wade put up 12 points in each of the first two quarters.

James left the game with 4:07 left in the third quarter after he jumped over chairs in the first row in pursuit of a loose ball. James re-entered the game to start the fourth quarter.

“I tweaked my hamstring and the back of my knee a little bit,” James said.

Cleveland outscored Miami 25-15 in the third quarter and headed into the fourth trailing 77-74. As a team, Miami shot just 23.8 percent in the third.

The Cavs cut their deficit to 90-87 with 3:09 left in the game, but a 3-pointer by Heat reserve forward Danny Granger helped Miami hold on.

Overall, the Heat shot 47.6 percent from the floor, and the Cavaliers shot 44.4 percent. However, the Heat took 12 more shots than the Cavs, in part because they were plus-six on rebounds and plus-four on turnovers.

After Miami lost a 23-point lead at home to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, Spoelstra said the Heat’s practice Wednesday was perhaps the team’s most spirited of the season.

“All of us probably would have rather hid under a rock,” Spoelstra said, “but we had to get to work.”

Spoelstra said Deng, a player the Heat signed to replace James at forward, showed tremendous endurance by playing 40 hard minutes.

“Luol was fantastic — he really committed on the defensive end, and he got us relief baskets on the other end,” Spoelstra said. “I can think four or five (plays) where we got caught in the last five seconds of the clock, and he was able to generate offense.”

NOTES: Cavaliers C Anderson Varejao, who tore his left Achilles tendon Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, was ruled out for the season, which figures to hurt an already-struggling defense. Through Wednesday, Cleveland ranked 23rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions). The seven teams below the Cavs in defensive efficiency all have losing records. In the past 30 years, only two NBA champions ranked below the top 10 in that category. … F Shawn Marion, four inches shorter than the 6-11 Varejao, started in his place. Marion finished with two points and five rebounds in 19 minutes. … Heat F Chris Bosh (calf) missed his seventh consecutive game. … If the Heat continue with their losing record, it would be a rarity for a team that reached the NBA Finals the prior season. Over the past 30 years, only two teams finished below .500 in the year after advancing to the NBA Finals: the 1998-99 Chicago Bulls and the 2004-05 Los Angeles Lakers.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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