CLEVELAND, Ohio, March 19 – LeBron James is coming back to his home region to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA team he spurned to join the Miami Heat, with his new teammates on a historic win streak.
The Heat risk their 23-game win streak, the second-longest in NBA history, on Wednesday at Cleveland in what will be James’ first game in the arena where he was once a star since he won his first NBA title last June with the Heat.
Only the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who own the all-time record of 33 wins in a row, have had a longer NBA win streak than Miami’s epic run in the 67-year history of the NBA.
“It’s a special team,” James said. “It’s a special ride right now that we’re on. I think the best thing about it is we’re doing it together. We’re doing it for one another and we just want to try to keep it going.”
The 28-year-old forward spent his first seven NBA seasons with the Cavaliers just down the road from Akron, where he was a high school phenomenon whose prep games attracted national attention.
But in that span, the Cavaliers struggled in the playoffs. In 2006, they won their first playoff series since 1993 but lost in the second round. In 2007, they reached the NBA Finals but were swept by San Antonio.
Second-round ousters followed in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and after the last of those, James made a live announcement in a made-for-television special called “The Decision” that he would leave for Miami.
Teaming with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James openly boasted about bringing multiple championships to Miami before he had won even one, a detail he took care of with a victory over Oklahoma City in last year’s NBA Finals after Miami lost the 2011 final to Dallas.
This season, the Heat own the best record in the NBA at 52-14 thanks to their epic win streak, which survived a tough test Monday at Boston when James hit the winning basket in the final seconds of a 105-103 triumph.
Earlier in the game, James made a spectacular slam dunk over Boston’s Jason Terry, a one-handed jam into the hoop destined to make YouTube sizzle that ended with Terry sprawled on the floor and James glaring at his fallen foe.
“We got a little emotional, a little fired up,” James said. “We just have to continue to stick together. We’re all out there trying to do the thing that’s right for the team and it was everybody together in the fourth quarter.”
James is averaging 26.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists for the Heat, who last tasted defeat on February 1 at Indiana.
While the Lakers’ record run was over by the early days of January in the 1971-72 season, the Heat have achieved their streak with a late-season surge, showing their superiority with the start of the playoffs looming next month.
If the streak remains intact after the Heat face the Cavaliers (22-45), Miami’s next games on the road to overtaking the Lakers would be Friday at home to Detroit (23-46), Sunday at home to Charlotte (15-52) and Monday at Orlando (18-49).
The next games featuring an opponent with a winning record for Miami would be March 27 at Chicago (36-30) and after a game two nights later at New Orleans (22-46), a big hurdle in the record bid would come at San Antonio (51-16).
Miami would then return home to play New York (39-26) on April 2, visit Charlotte three nights later and then come home for the potential record-tying triumph April 6 against Philadelphia (26-40) and the possible record setter April 9 against Milwaukee (33-32).
“It’s a special opportunity we have with this group and you don’t want to take it for granted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.