The Cavaliers and Heat both try to get their seasons back on track when they meet in a Christmas Day matchup in Cleveland.
LeBron James led the Cavaliers (12-16) to the franchise’s first NBA Finals last season, but they were swept by San Antonio. The Cavs were expected to contend for the East crown again this season, but have been fallen well short of expectations so far.
Cleveland is ninth in the conference, and in third in the Central Division - 8 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit.
“Last year I thought we played with more energy and more passion,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “Right now, at times we’ve come out flat and dug ourselves a hole.”
The Heat will need to do far more to try and pick themselves up.
Two seasons ago, Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal led Miami (8-19) to the franchise’s first NBA title, but now is tied with the New York Knicks for the worst record in the East. The three-time defending Southeast Division champions are nine games back of division-leading Orlando.
“I’m not into winning anymore and I’m not into losing,” Miami coach Pat Riley said. “I’m into fighting. I think we have to live for the fight.”
The Heat are hoping to carry some momentum from their 104-102 win over Utah on Saturday when Wade hit a 20-foot game-winning shot at the buzzer.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and got a shot,” said Wade, who finished with 20 points. “It’s big. It’s big because we’d lost four of our last five games. This is a very good team and this shows the toughness of the team. We can build from here.”
Miami has won consecutive games only once this season, beating the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix on the road earlier this month.
The Cavs, meanwhile, are coming off another forgettable performance as they lost to Golden State on Sunday 105-96.
Cleveland, which has lost 10 of its last 13, trailed by 28 points in the third quarter, and James refused to talk to reporters after the game.
The Cavs have been awful on defense, as they’ve allowed at least 100 points 17 times this season. In 2006-07, opponents reached the 100-point mark 18 times.
“We have to play with a sense of urgency on both ends of the floor,” Brown said. “Defensively we’re going through the motions. When we contest shots we have our hand up but it’s really no true contest to make them feel us, like we have in the past. That’s something we have to keep preaching.”
James, who leads the league in scoring with 29.5 points per game, had 25 and eight assists against the Warriors. He averaged 27.5 points in four games against the Heat last season, but Cleveland lost three of those contests.
A shoulder injury limited Wade to just two appearances against the Cavaliers last season, but he had a season high-tying 41 points in a 92-89 win on Feb. 1. He’s averaging 36.8 points in his last four games against Cleveland.
O’Neal, who averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds against the Cavs last season, had 17 and 10 against the Jazz for his seventh double-double this season.
The Heat have played on Christmas each of the last three years, beating the Los Angeles Lakers each time. The Cavs have not played on Christmas since losing to Orlando 113-101 in overtime in 2003.