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Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010

LeBron has last laugh

Scores 38 among cascade of boos in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) He tuned out the boos. He smiled at the derisive chants. He embraced all the negativity Cleveland could muster.

News photo
No-look shot: Miami's LeBron James goes up to the basket against Cleveland on Thursday . AP PHOTO

LeBron James wasn't fazed by anything.

He brought his talents back home and reminded everyone — even the haters — why he's missed.

Returning as a villain to his native state and the city he scorned this summer, James scored 38 points — 24 in a virtuoso third-quarter performance — to lead the Miami Heat to a 118-90 win on Thursday night, turning his hostile homecoming into another embarrassing moment for the Cavaliers.

Dwyane Wade added 22 points, James Jones 18 and Chris Bosh 15 for the Heat, a star-studded team which has seldom played like one in going 12-8 so far.

By halftime, James was the one having fun. By the fourth quarter, he was watching from the bench as Cavs fans headed into the cold for a disappointing drive home.

This wasn't the payback they waited five months to inflict.

James simply wouldn't allow it, but insisted his beatdown wasn't personal. At one point this summer, he compiled a roster of enemies.

"Cavs fans weren't on my list," he said. "I have the utmost respect for these fans. It's nothing personal and it won't be ever."

As he did so many times during seven seasons for the Cavs, the two-time league MVP did anything he wanted on the floor. In the third quarter, he made 10-of-12 shots, jumpers from every angle and taunted Cleveland's bench after draining a seemingly impossible baseline jumper.

"I know this court. I've made a lot of shots on this court," he said. "Just wanted to be aggressive, just try to keep them out of the game. I knew they were going to try to make a run in the third quarter, but we were able to get stops and we were able to get some shots."

James said his trash talked directed at the Cavs' bench was in fun.

"For me, it was," he said. "It was fun to have an opportunity to go against them."

With security guards forming a human barricade to line his entrance, James came hopping out of the tunnel and into the electrically charged atmosphere inside Quicken Loans Arena, as more than 20,000 fans, the same ones who once adored him, turned their fury on James.

Booed every time he touched the ball, James scored 14 points in the first half as the Heat opened a 59-40 lead, and threatened to turn the highly anticipated game into a blowout.

Daniel Gibson had 21 for the Cavaliers, who have lost six of eight and play seven of their next eight on the road.

Suns 107, Warriors 101

In Oakland, Calif., Jason Richardson scored 25 points against his former team and Grant Hill added 24 to lead Phoenix over Golden State.

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