(SportsNetwork.com) - LeBron James returns to Miami for the first time since spurning the Heat and rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers this past offseason and, he will do it on Christmas night nonetheless.
Traditionally reserved for the NBA's marquee matchup, this Christmas evening classic features James heading back to South Beach after four seasons, two titles and four championship appearances with the Miami Heat.
"To say I haven't thought about going back, I'd be lying to you guys," James said. "I know it's going to be great to be back in that building around those unbelievable fans, you know, the memories will definitely come back."
And how will those fans react after James returned home, leaving the Heat a sub .500 team?
"It's going to be a mixture," Dwyane Wade told ESPN.com. "How I think he should be received is a little bit different. The man helped take us to places we've only been once before he got here. So I think he should be received very well for that at the start of the game. And then, when the game [starts], then do what you've got to do."
James won two MVPs and two Finals MVPs in his tenure with the Heat. He signed with Cleveland in the offseason, citing a need to bring a championship to his part of Ohio.
For the Heat, that left a massive void, but the team enjoyed a solid offseason roster revival. It hasn't translated in the standings, but key injuries have set back the Heat's development.
Cleveland suffered a huge injury in its last outing, a 125-104 blowout of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. Center Anderson Varejao will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon in the win.
Kevin Love scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in his first game against his former team. Love also exited the contest earlier in the third due to a thumb injury, but returned later in the period.
"It scared me initially. I had jammed it pretty bad during the Brooklyn game and in practice put it in tape the next day, so I was fortunate that I was able to, I guess, get shots up and some practice time with the tape on," Love said. "We came back here and it seems to be just a mild, little thing. I shook it off and went back in there and played."
Kyrie Irving scored 29 and James totaled 24 points for the Cavaliers, who have won three in a row and 12 of their last 15 games. That includes nine wins in their last 10 at home.
The Heat are trending in a different direction. They've lost three of their last four, including an ugly loss Tuesday night at home against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Miami blew a 23-point lead and lost to a Sixers' team with the fewest wins in the league and only eight healthy bodies.
After establishing a 15-point halftime lead, the Heat scored 30 points in the second half, including just nine in the fourth quarter. Philly had 31 points in the third quarter alone. Miami shot just 27.8 percent from the field over the final 24 minutes.
"It doesn't get worse than this," said a visibly dejected Wade. "You have to find a way to win a game like this. It's on us."
Wade led the Heat with 23 points, while Shawne Williams netted 17 in the loss. Mario Chalmers scored 11 to round out the double-figure scorers for the Heat.
With James a member of the team, the Heat have won 10 in a row against the Cavaliers. During the four seasons James was in South Beach, the Heat went 13-1 versus Cleveland.
Miami has taken seven in a row as the host in this series.