Thursday NBA: Heat (24-25) at Cavaliers (39-11)
The Miami Heat are sinking in the East, having lost five of six games to drop to fourth in the Southeast Division and into a tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference. This is probably not the kind of season Dwyane Wade was talking about when he said he wanted to see a competitive team before re-signing as a free agent this summer.
And Miami has a double whammy tonight of having to play 24 hours after losing in Boston and facing a Cleveland team currently on an NBA-high nine-game winning streak. Not to mention the Cavs have already won in Miami twice this season and have won eight of the past nine in the series. Cleveland has won 18 of its past 19 at home this season and hasn’t lost to the Heat there since 2007.
Thus the Heat are 9.5-point underdogs on WagerWeb.com’s NBA odds. Miami is just 2-7 in the second of back-to-backs this season.
Miami is also banged up, with starters Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O’Neal all struggling with back issues, although all three played last night. Wade had 27 points and 13 assists against the Celtics (season high for assists) but Miami still fell under .500 for the first time since November 2008.
The Cavs are still without their top two guards in Mo Williams and Delonte West – both out tonight – but Daniel Gibson has stepped up big time in their place. Plus Shaq has scored in double figures in 10 straight games. But obviously it’s all about LeBron for Cleveland. He scored the winning points last Monday in Miami on free throws after stealing a pass from Wade. Then he defended the Heat star, forcing a final shot miss. Since that game, the Cavs have won four consecutive by at least 14 points and covered all of them. LeBron is sharing the ball, too, as he has recorded double-digit assists in each.
Cleveland and Miami have met 21 times since both Wade and LeBron entered the league and both were active for the games – James leads 12-9.