In what is certain to be one of the most highly publicized games of the season, the Miami Heat will travel to play the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In other words, LeBron James will be returning home.
The question is, will a loyalty-based feud be enough to slow down the red-hot Heat?
Entering this game, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 22-45 and 13-20 at home. They've lost three in a row and seven of their past nine games.
When they host LeBron, however, records are meaningless.
As for the Heat, they continue to tear through the NBA at an indescribably brilliant rate. They're 52-14 overall and continue to with their soon-to-be-legendary winning streak.
Will Cleveland be the team to snap the Heat's 23-game winning streak?
Time: Wednesday, Mar. 20 at 7:00 p.m. EDT
TV: SUN Sports & Fox Sports Ohio
Records: Miami Heat (52-14, 22-11 road) at Cleveland Cavaliers (22-45, 13-20 home)
Betting Line: N/A
Miami Heat Injury Report
Cleveland Cavaliers Injury Report
Wayne Ellington, Sprained Left Ankle, Probable
Kyrie Irving, Sprained Left Shoulder, Out
Dion Waiters, Left Knee Soreness, Questionable
Anderson Varejao, Blood Clot, Out
Key Storyline: LeBron Returns to Cleveland
LeBron James is returning to Cleveland in what is certain to be a heated confrontation. The Miami Heat are putting their 23-game winning streak on the line.
So which storyline matters more? I'll side with both.
The Heat are 10 games—a tall task in its own right—away from the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' all-time-record winning streak of 33 straight wins. In order to reach that plateau, however, they'll need to take down LeBron's archrival.
Regardless of what the records may look like and which players are on the floor, anything is possible when emotions are involved.
The crowd will make this one difficult, and the Cavaliers will likely recover. The only question is, will the Cavs have enough personnel for it to matter?
Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao are out, while Dion Waiters is questionable.
Key Matchup: Udonis Haslem vs. Tristan Thompson
It would be great to say that Dwyane Wade and Dion Waiters will square off. Unfortunately, injuries have damaged our chances of witnessing that battle.
Instead, we'll have to settle for an interior battle between Tristan Thompson and Udonis Haslem.
Haslem will likely see less than 25 minutes, but his ability to match up against Thompson will be a key to the outcome of this game. For those wondering why, simply check the numbers.
Thompson has double-doubles in six of his past nine games and is averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds for the season.
Most recently, Thompson dropped 20 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks against the Indiana Pacers. If Miami allows the second-year power forward to do so when thees two sides meet, Thompson could play a role in a shocking upset.
It's up to Haslem to break Thompson's rhythm early.
X-Factor: Wayne Ellington, Cleveland Cavaliers
Wayne Ellington's return from a sprained left ankle has come with mixed results. During his first game back, Ellington scored 21 points, and the Cavaliers nearly upset the San Antonio Spurs on the road.
During his second game back, Ellington scored three points on 1-of-9 shooting, and Cleveland was blown out.
That's what you call an X-Factor.
Ellington has been shooting the lights out since joining the Cavs via trade. He's averaging 10.2 points on a slash line of .466/.402/.907 in 22 games with the team.
If the Cavs are to stand a chance at upsetting Miami, they'll need Ellington to step up big.
Due to the emotions involved in this game, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to make it interesting. With that being said, they are far worse than "injury-depleted."
Who will win?
Without Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and, potentially, Dion Waiters, the Heat will simply be too powerful.
Miami has a full head of steam with 23 consecutive victories. Most recently, they had an extraordinary comeback victory against the rivals, the Boston Celtics.
As a team that is battle-tested and riding their momentum, it's hard to imagine that the Heat slip up against a team as injury-plagued as Cleveland. With that being said, don't call it an impossibility.
LeBron James will be too much, and Dwyane Wade will make up for a lackluster performance against Boston with a monster one against Cleveland.
Miami Heat 101, Cleveland Cavaliers 92