CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 28 in his third game back to Cleveland as a visitor, Dwyane Wade added 22 and the Miami Heat won their fifth straight — all on the road — by destroying the Cavaliers 111-87 on Friday night.
James, booed loudly every time he touched the ball by fans who haven’t forgiven him for leaving two years ago, scored 16 in the third quarter when the Heat opened a 34-point lead. James added four dunks, three 3-pointers, five rebounds, five assists and rested the entire fourth quarter.
Miami has won eight of nine, and went 5-1 on its trip, winning by an average of 18.8 points.
The Heat showed no mercy on the Cavs, who got 17 points from rookie Kyrie Irving and 15 from Ramon Sessions.
After the final horn, James shook hands with fans sitting near Miami’s bench, tossed his headband into the stands and skipped off the floor, slapping outstretched hands with every step.
He wasn’t home anymore, but he sure looked comfortable.
The Heat ended their six-city trip with a devastating performance at both ends over the Cavs, who had played them tough in two previous losses this season.
Miami led 11-0, 21-2, 29-8 and 35-14 in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers never had a chance.
Playing their best ball of the season, the Heat also won three games in three nights during the trip, becoming the first team since the 1979-80 Phoenix Suns to accomplish that three-peat. And with Tuesday’s 15-point win at Indiana, the Heat also became the first team since Milwaukee in 1970 to win three consecutive road games by 10 points or more.
The Bucks won the NBA title that year. The Heat could be on their way to one of their own.
James had spent the past two days staying at his mansion in nearby Bath, Ohio, a perk he enjoyed and a stay that made him a little nostalgic.
On Thursday, James expressed the possibility of returning to the Cavs before his career is over. That’s years down the road. His immediate plans are to win championships with the Heat.
With Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert sitting courtside, James and the Heat wasted no time in opening a huge lead and quieting a sellout crowd that came seeking revenge on the most celebrated player in Cavs history. James was booed mercilessly during pregame introductions.
Miami scored the game’s first 11 points and pushed its lead to 25-5 when James grabbed a lob and delivered a vicious one-handed slam, an early punctuation mark. James and Mario Chalmers hit consecutive 3-pointers later in the quarter as the Heat opened a 21-point lead after one.
This wasn’t what Cavs coach Byron Scott had in mind. One of his assistants had written on the dry-erase board in Cleveland’s locker room the message: “Hit First.”
The Heat landed the initial shot and kept ’em coming.
They pushed their lead to 27 on a 3-pointer by Wade and Miami went 8 of 12 from long range in opening a 63-38 lead.
In the third, James went on a personal 7-0 run he started with a pair of free throws. He followed that with a thunderous dunk and capped it with a 3-pointer. After the ball swished through the net, James headed down court nodding to fans as if to say, “Remember me?”
With the Heat up 71-45, James met Irving at the basket and rejected the rookie’s layup attempt.
About the only glitch in James’ game was a badly missed jumper that brought chants of “air ball!” from the crowd. But James took it in stride, raising both arms to acknowledge the taunt and his misfire.
This was James’ third visit to Cleveland with the Heat, and as usual, it turned in to more than just a game.
James touched some nerves in Northeast Ohio and South Florida on Thursday when he said he could envision a return to the Cavs at some point.
“I think it would be great,” he said. “It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot fun times in my seven years here. You can’t predict the future and hopefully I continue to stay healthy. I’m here as a Miami Heat player, and I’m happy where I am now, but I don’t rule that out.
“And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.”
Those remarks didn’t sit well with some Miami fans, but James didn’t back off his comments Friday.
However, he did clarify that he is committed to the Heat.
“I love the fans of Miami. I’m here,” said James, who can opt out of his contract after the 2014 season. “The question was asked of me, could I see myself playing back here. I said yeah, in the sense of I don’t know what my future holds and I don’t want to take that out.
“I’ve got everything thing invested with this team. I’m looking forward to the years to come.”
But according to a report from Yahoo! Sports, James has been using messengers to relay to Gilbert that he wants to return to Cleveland in three years.
That’s all conjecture.
For now, he’s in Miami.
And he and the Heat look unstoppable.
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