Published March 29, 2011
CLEVELAND – In an unbearable season of losses, Cleveland got the win it wanted most.
The Cavaliers took down LeBron James.
Despite blowing a 23-point lead, the Cavs battled back and beat the Miami Heat 102-90 on Tuesday night, getting a dose of revenge against James, who was making his second homecoming visit to Cleveland since leaving last summer.
J.J. Hickson scored 21 and Anthony Parker scored 20 for the Cavs, who were embarrassed by James and the Heat 118-90 on Dec. 2 — a night when Cleveland fans unleashed their hatred on the superstar.
This time, James left the floor hanging his head. He finished with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
In the closing seconds, a sellout crowd of 20,562 cut loose at a victory even the most loyal Cleveland fan couldn't have imagined. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who accused James of quitting in last year's playoffs after the two-time MVP announced he was joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a poorly conceived TV special, high-fived anyone within reach.
On the floor afterward, Parker, whose last 3-pointer with 2:47 left capped a 12-0 run and put the Heat away, addressed Cavs fans.
"You guys deserve it," he said.
The Cavaliers were a different team — literally — from the one that laid down against the Heat here in December. Injuries and trades have reduced Cleveland's roster to a shell of the one James played with and helped win 60 games last season.
The Heat nearly rallied from 23 down, and tied it at 83-all on Mike Bibby's seventh 3-pointer with 7:03 left. But Miami, which wasted a chance to move into second place in the Eastern Conference standings, went scoreless for 4:24, allowed the Cavs to get their 15th win and post their most lopsided win this season.
Wade added 24 for the Heat, who had their winning streak stopped at five.
Cleveland shot 56 percent from the field, a number that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will certainly use to motivate his team to play better defense as it gets ready for the postseason.
Baron Davis made his first start since coming to Cleveland in a trade, and the veteran scored 10 points and provided leadership. The Cavs also got a big lift from center Ryan Hollins, who had 13 points, three blocks and played physically — something none of Cleveland's players did in December.
There wasn't the same venom and hatred that shrouded James' first visit four months ago. The crowd was energetic but not as outwardly angry toward James, who was booed every time he touched the ball. Security was extremely high, but there were no reported incidents.
The teams took turns going on extended runs in a wild, back-and-forth third quarter.
Cleveland scored 18 straight points and opened a 71-48 lead, sending their fans into a frenzy and putting the Heat in a deep hole. But Miami was a long way from done as Wade hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points in a 19-1 spurt that pulled the Heat within 72-67 on James' jumper.
Christian Eyenga's 3-pointer with 2 seconds left put the Cavs ahead 75-67. James flung a 3-pointer from a few steps beyond halfcourt to end the quarter, a shot that was initially ruled no good but changed after the officials reviewed TV replays between periods and determined there was a clock malfunction.
James arrived at the arena that was his pro basketball home for seven seasons at 5:12 p.m. Wearing headphones and a shirt with the inscription: "Long Live The King," James went through security and waved to a few guards before ducking into the visitor's locker room for the second time.
James wasn't sure what he would be facing, but he was confident things would not be nearly as hostile as his previous visit.
"I expect the worst," he said. "But worse than last time, Dec. 2? No."
James dodged the first barrage of boos by staying in the locker room during player introductions. He entered the arena under the cover of darkness while the Cavs were being introduced.
After James' return in December, the Cavs were criticized by their fans for the way they acted around their former teammate. Fans felt there was far too much joking around, and they thought someone needed to step up to James and deliver a hard foul.
Hollins took it upon himself to get physical, hitting with Wade with a forearm. Moments later, the two had words and were both assessed technicals.
Hickson knocked James on his rear in the lane later in the first quarter, but James made the shot as he fell to the floor and completed the three-point play. He finished the quarter with 13 points, but didn't score in the second when the Cavs built a 16-point lead.
Miami cut it in half with an 8-0 run, but Davis knocked down a 3-pointer at the horn to give the Cavs a 53-42 halftime lead.
Notes: Heat F Mike Miller sat out with a bruised knee that Spoelstra described as "slightly sprained." Miller will be re-evaluated when his knee "calms down," Spoelstra said. ... During a timeout in the second quarter, a fan made a 3-pointer and won $10,000.