The Cleveland Cavaliers are just one win shy of last season’s total and they haven’t even reached the All-Star break.
Cleveland will try to match the 17 wins of 2002-03 when it hosts Miami on Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers have won four of their last five games, including going 2-1 with LeBron James sidelined by a sprained ankle.
James’ return from the ankle injury sparked Cleveland to a 99-98 win over Orlando on Monday night. The rookie had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes before getting kicked in the leg in the fourth quarter and sitting the final 4:51.
James hadn’t decided to test his ankle until just before tipoff.
“I thought I could make an impact by coming back,” James said. “I didn’t want to chance it and come back too soon. But I was confident I could play.”
“This win shows how much we have grown up this season,” said Carlos Boozer, selected the Eastern Conference’s player of the week on Monday. “The maturity is amazing. This was another confidence builder.”
Boozer had a game-high 23 points and 16 rebounds on Monday.
After a dismal start to the season, Miami has crept within a half-game of the eighth playoff spot in the East following Monday’s 95-81 win over Houston.
Eddie Jones scored 27 points and Miami shot 51 percent against the league’s top-ranked defense, including going 11-for-23 from 3-point range.
“That’s the best we’ve played all year,” Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Everything went right for us, and that’s what has to happen when you play a real good team.”
Miami, which started the season with seven straight losses, has won three consecutive games.
“They’re as improved as any team in the league,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “The main thing with them is that they play so hard.”
Lamar Odom scored 20 points and was happy to help his coach win the coaching matchup with his brother.
“He really wanted it,” Odom said. “And we wanted it for him.”
STANDINGS (through Jan. 26): Heat - 5th place, 4 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division. Cavaliers - 6th place, 16 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Heat - Jones, 18.3 ppg; Odom, 9.8 rpg; Dwyane Wade, 4.4 apg. Cavaliers - James, 20.3 ppg and 6.1 apg; Boozer, 11.0 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Heat, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 12; Heat, 88-83. At Miami, Jones scored 25 points and Odom added 14 points and 10 assists as the Heat got their first win of the season. Miami, which had lost its first seven games, held James to 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Heat - 6-19 on the road; Cavaliers - 12-9 at home.