The Miami Heat weren’t in a giving mood as they spoiled the Christmas Day return of LeBron James to southern Florida.
James tallied a team-high 30 points and eight assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers lost 101-91 to his former team in one of five NBA contests on the Christmas holiday.
It was James’s first game in South Beach since spurning the Heat to rejoin his hometown Cavaliers in the offseason.
James, who got a big pre-game ovation from the crowd of 19,800, won two NBA titles in four seasons with his former team, who have fallen to a sub .500 club since he left.
Miami didn’t play like a struggling team this time.
They were a determined bunch, especially James’ former sidekick Dwyane Wade, who finished with a game-high 31 points.
The Heat victory came just 48 hours after a disappointing 91-87 loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
“It could have been easy for us to be down on ourselves but we weren’t,” said Wade, who hugged and chatted with James on the court after the final buzzer.
It seems there were no hard feelings between James and the Heat fans either, as he received plenty of applause and just a smattering of boos during the pre-game introductions.
The Heat also played a video tribute to James during one of the timeouts.
“What me and my teammates created while we were here is going to last forever,” said James, who led the Heat to four championship appearances. “You can never take that out of the (history) books.
“I gave everything and more to the city while I was here. I never disrespected the city, the franchise, or any of my teammates.”
Wade said he was pleased to see the cheers outnumber the boos for James.
“That is the way it should be. There is no reason to say anything negative about LeBron James,” said Wade, who scored 24 of his 31 points in the first half.
In San Antonio, Russell Westbrook didn’t mind picking up the slack for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were missing reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant for the fifth-straight contest.
Westbrook tallied 35 points and 11 assists as the Thunder beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs 114-106 in front of 18,500 fans.
Westbrook also had five rebounds and five steals for the Thunder, who lost to the Spurs 4-2 in the playoff semi-finals last season. Serge Ibaka added 21 points and Steven Adams engineered 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
In Los Angeles, Jamal Crawford scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and Chris Paul scored 22 points as the LA Clippers beat Golden State 100-86, handing the NBA-leading Warriors their second loss at Staples Center in three days.
Klay Thompson scored 15 points and Stephen Curry 14 for Golden State, who have now lost three of five following a 23-3 start that included a franchise-record 16-game winning streak.
In Chicago, former Lakers centre Pau Gasol had 23 points and 13 rebounds against his former team as Chicago beat Los Angeles 113-93 with Lakers star Kobe Bryant resting his sore body for a second staright game.
Jimmy Butler added 21 points, and Derrick Rose had 20 points and six assists to help the Bulls win their season-high fifth straight.
In New York, John Wall had 24 points and 11 assists, eluding the Knicks all day until getting knocked to the floor by a flagrant foul that sparked an altercation, and Washington beat New York 102-91.
Wall toyed with the Knicks for 3 1/2 quarters, highlighted by a spinning, 360-degree layup, before Quincy Acy knocked him down with a forearm shove with 5:31 to play.
Wall got up and pushed Acy, who responded with a punch that appeared to hit Wall behind the neck. Acy was ejected in the Christmas dust-up, and Wall received a technical foul.
Bradley Beal added 17 points for the Wizards, who had their top five of Wall, Beal, Paul Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat in the starting lineup for the first time this season.
Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points for the Knicks, who fell to 5-26 and have the most losses in the NBA. They have dropped six straight and 16 of 17.