They had, as Wade described it, “the look.”
The Look. It’s what NBA superstars invariably get when matched up against one another, and it’s what Wade will try to have Monday night when Miami plays host to James and the Cavaliers in a game that could, among other things, give the Heat a big shot of momentum before heading out for another long road swing.
“Anytime you get to go against one of those matchups, you always get up for it,” Wade said. “I was saying the other day, watching the Lakers and Cleveland play, just looking at both guys they had a different look in their eyes. That’s just what it is. It’ll be the same thing Monday night. I always enjoy playing against LeBron.”
Wade and James are forever linked in many ways, each going in the top five spots of the 2003 draft and aligning to help the U.S. win Olympic gold in Beijing. They’re also close friends, and have been asked countless times in recent months about the prospects of playing together somewhere starting next season, since both could opt out of their contracts and become free agents this summer.
That’s fun stuff to talk about.
For now and the foreseeable future, they’ll remain friendly rivals.
It’ll be the 21st meeting between the two, James getting 11 wins so far to Wade’s nine. Head-to-head, their stat lines are close to identical—James is averaging 28.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.7 assists on 47 percent shooting, Wade has 27.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 46 percent shooting. And each player has topped the 40-point mark four times against the other’s team.
“They’re going to play well,” Wade said. “I think it’s going to be a defensive battle. Both teams are very good defensive teams. The first time we played them, it was a good game, they wound up pulling away at the end. So we’ve just got to be very focused, can’t turn the ball over, make sure we continue to play team basketball the way we have and play for 48 minutes.”
Even with Mo Williams(notes) sidelined, the Cavs come in rolling, winners of four straight with the last two of those coming against the Lakers on Thursday and then Oklahoma City on Saturday, a 100-99 victory sealed by James making a huge block against Kevin Durant(notes).
Entering Sunday, Cleveland had opened a four-game lead in the East at 34-11, including 17-8 away from home.
Meanwhile, for the Heat, it’s been all-or-nothing of late.
Miami beat Indiana 113-83 on Tuesday, lost 104-65 at Charlotte on Wednesday, won 112-88 in Washington on Friday and returned home Saturday to beat Sacramento 115-84—a dizzying run of routs.
No one’s expecting another 30-something-point game Monday, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knows it’ll take one of those efforts to knock off the Cavs.
“We have to continue that,” Spoelstra said. “We obviously have a big one on Monday.”
For his part, Wade agrees, but isn’t attaching any additional significance to the 44th game of the season.
After Monday, the Heat play 11 of their next 13 on the road, not staying at home for more than one game in succession until late February. Beating the Cavs would extend Miami’s cushion as the Heat try to solidify fifth place in the East — the prerequisite for making a late-season run for home-court edge in the first round.
“It’s a very important game for us because it’s our next game and it’s a home game and they came in the first time and took one on our home floor,” Wade said. “We need to really come out and play well and give ourselves a chance. For us, every game is a must-win.”