Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Jason Miller/Getty Images

In what is always an intriguing battle, LeBron James will return home as the Miami Heat travel to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is the fourth and final clash between the two sides during the 2012-13 NBA regular season.

Miami has won the first three by an average of 3.0 points per game.

Miami enters this game with a league-best record of 64-16. They've won six in a row, including back-to-back victories over the rival Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.

Can they take down their third nemesis in as many games?

As for the Cavaliers, they come in with a record of 24-56. As their previous battles with the Heat would suggest, however, that is not indicative of what they are capable of against their rivals.

So who will win LeBron's final trip to Cleveland in 2012-13? Let's find out.

 

Time: Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m. EDT

TV: Sun Sports and Fox Sports Ohio

Records: Miami Heat (64-16, 28-12 road) at Cleveland Cavaliers (24-56, 14-26 home)

Betting Line: N/A as of 7:05 p.m. ET, April 14

 

Miami Heat Injury Report

Shane Battier, Rest, Questionable

Udonis Haslem, Ankle Soreness, Out

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Injury Report

Shaun Livingston, Back Spasms, Questionable

C.J. Miles, Concussion, Questionable

Luke Walton, Right Ankle Sprain, Questionable

Anderson Varejao, Blood Clot, Out

 

Key Storyline: LeBron's Return to Cleveland

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For the second time in 2012-13, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play host to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. As one might expect, James' return has sparked the best efforts of the young Cleveland team.

Thus far in 2012-13, the Heat have won all three games against the Cavaliers by an average of 3.0 points per game. Is the fourth time the charm?

The Cavaliers may be undermanned and young, but they've played Miami well each and every time these two sides have met. They lost 110-108 on Nov. 24, 109-105 on Feb. 24 and 98-95 on March 20.

Cleveland led by 31 on March 20 and came back from 22 down on Feb. 24. No lead is safe in this rivalry.

 

Key Matchup: Wayne Ellington vs. Dwyane Wade

USA TODAY Sports

Thus far in 2012-13, Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Wayne Ellington is averaging 7.8 points per game on 38.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Against the Miami Heat, however, it's been a different story.

In three games against the Heat, Ellington is averaging 16.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

In order to defeat the Cavaliers, the first area the Heat must focus on is closing off the three-point line. Although they rank 23rd in terms of three-point field-goal percentage, they know where to look for the money ball.

It's on Dwyane Wade to slow Ellington down.

 

X-Factor: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to win this game, they'll need to force the issue inside. The Miami Heat are the worst rebounding team in the NBA and can be exposed along the interior.

Cleveland will look to rising star Tristan Thompson for those contributions.

Prior to the Cavaliers' April 14 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Thompson had been averaging 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds in his previous five games. He followed that up with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Sixers.

Cleveland will need that against Miami.

Whether he's matched up with LeBron James or Chris Bosh, Thompson should be able to get to the glass. If that's the case, Thompson will create enough second-chance scoring opportunities to make an impact.

For what it's worth, Thompson is averaging 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds against Miami in 2012-13.

 

Prediction

When the Cleveland Cavaliers play the Miami Heat on April 15, it will be a case of two teams with different motives. The Heat have already clinched home-court advantage and have little to play for, while Cleveland has everything to gain.

Who will win?

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They're a young team with little to feel good about after a disappointing 2012-13 campaign. A win over Miami would change that.

If the Cavaliers take down the mighty Heat, their young players could receive the confidence boost necessary to see a carryover into 2013-14. That includes the red-hot Tristan Thompson and star point guard Kyrie Irving.

Put your money on Cleveland finally pulling out the W.

The Heat have won six in a row and are the unquestioned superior force in this clash. With that being said, they have every reason to rest their players against the Cavs.

This won't hurt Miami's momentum one bit, but it'll help Cleveland's morale in a major way.

Cleveland Cavaliers 109, Miami Heat 103

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