(SportsNetwork.com) - The Cleveland Cavaliers continue their pursuit of their first Central Division title in five years on Thursday when the Miami Heat visit Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavs own a three-game lead over the Chicago Bulls in the Central, a division the Cavaliers haven't won since the 2009-10 season. Cleveland is also ahead of the Toronto Raptors and Bulls by three for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
That last division crown came in LeBron James' final season before departing for the Heat, a team he guided to four Finals appearances, including two championships. He bolting from there to go back to Cleveland this past offseason.
Adding intrigue to a matchup that needs very little, the Heat currently share seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the Brooklyn Nets, so the possibility exists for a first-round showdown between Cleveland and Miami, or, LeBron versus Dwyane Wade and Miami.
"You look at the standings, you see who's 2 and 7," James said after practice on Wednesday. "It would be good for the fans for sure and it would be good for me and D. Wade."
The Cavs have won five of their last six and 16 straight at home. Cleveland hasn't lost in the Q since Jan. 7 versus the Houston Rockets and play five of its last seven there.
On Sunday, the Cavaliers had a little more trouble than expected in an 87-86 home victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
James tallied 20 points with 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the Cavs. Kyrie Irving scored 17 points and Timofey Mozgov checked in with 14 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland.
The final margin stayed true for the last 3:57 of the game as both offenses struggled mightily down the stretch.
"Some games it's just offensively we don't have any type of rhythm, which we didn't have tonight," James said. "But you gotta find a way to win and we did that tonight."
Kevin Love missed the contest with a sore lower back. He will be a game-time decision on Thursday, but Iman Shumpert will play. He sprained his ankle in the first half against Philly and didn't return.
The Heat were caught by the Nets for the seventh seed after Brooklyn rattled off five consecutive victories. The teams are just a half-game clear of the Boston Celtics in what is becoming a three-horse race this late in the campaign.
The four-time reigning Eastern Conference champions have lost two of three and four of their last six, including Tuesday's 95-81 home setback against the San Antonio Spurs in a rematch of the Finals.
Goran Dragic paced Miami with 19 points and Wade, fresh off dropping 40 against the Detroit Pistons, shot just 6-of-20 for 15 points. Hassan Whiteside and Mario Chalmers both netted 10 off the bench.
"They stepped it up to a different level," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Five straight points from James Ennis had Miami within 51-50 early in the third quarter, but Matt Bonner countered with a 3-pointer on the other end. His trey jumpstarted an 18-4 run that spanned more than six minutes and put the Spurs in the driver's seat.
They ended any hopes of a Heat comeback with a 12-2 spurt to open the fourth.
The Heat begin a three-game road trip which will send them to Detroit and Indiana. They play four in a row at home after that, then close the season in Philadelphia.
In three meetings this season, the Heat are 2-1 with both victories in South Beach. On Christmas Day, Miami prevailed by 10 and it won by 14 on March 16. Cleveland won by 20 at the Q on Feb. 11.