LeBron James and the Cavaliers look to continue their strong play in the new year, while Dwyane Wade and the Heat try to avoid losing their 14th straight game when they meet Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
James, the top pick in the 2003 draft, led Cleveland (21-18) to the franchise’s first NBA finals appearance last season before the young club suffered a sweep by San Antonio.
The Cavaliers got off to a slow start this season as they looked to duplicate last season’s success, but have won seven of eight in 2008.
James has powered the Cavs’ surge, averaging 32.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists in those contests.
The three-time All-Star had 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in Thursday’s 90-88 victory over the Spurs, the teams’ first meeting since the finals.
“The finals are over and done with,” said James, who had a season-high 51 points in Tuesday’s 132-124 overtime victory over Memphis. “We’ve just got to continue to play well. We’ve been playing great basketball lately.”
While Cleveland has been surging, the Heat tied the franchise’s second-longest losing streak at 13 set in 1989-90 with an 88-84 defeat to New York on Saturday.
Miami’s slide began with a 96-82 loss to the Cavs on Christmas Day. Only the expansion Heat - who lost their first 17 games of the 1988-89 season - have dropped more in a row in franchise history.
Wade, the fifth overall pick of the 2003 draft, led Miami (8-31) to the team’s first NBA title in 2006, but 19 months later the Heat have the worst record in the East.
“Maybe we should hang some more pictures of that trophy somewhere, so we can remember what it felt like to be in that moment,” said Miami coach Pat Riley, mired in the longest slide of his career. “We have to change the energy, somehow.”
The Heat had a 10-point third-quarter lead over the Knicks on Saturday, only to get outscored 23-15 in the fourth quarter.
Despite its recent struggles, Miami has won nine straight home games over Cleveland since an 86-81 overtime loss on Dec. 21, 2001.
James has lost all eight games he’s played in Miami, although he averaged 27.0 points, 7.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds in those contests.
Wade, who had 22 points on 7-for-23 shooting with nine assists Saturday, is averaging 26.0 points in his seven home games against the Cavs. He had 22 points on 7-of-18 shooting against Cleveland on Christmas.
Shaquille O’Neal added 13 points and nine rebounds in that game. The 14-time All-Star had 10 points and five rebounds Saturday, after averaging 22.0 points and 10.5 boards in his first two games back following an eight-game absence due to left hip bursitis.
The Heat have lost five straight home games and are 4-14 at AmericanAirlines Arena this season.