One eve of ‘homecoming’, LeBron helps Heat beat Pistons

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MIAMI | The white message board in the Miami Heat locker room warned players about what awaits in Cleveland.

“Snow. 20’s,” it said.

The weather will be cold, the reception will be colder — and LeBron James says he’s up to the challenge.

James scored 18 points, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade each scored 16 and the Heat rolled past the Detroit Pistons 97-72 on Wednesday night, dominating the second half with defense.

Next up: James‘ homecoming-of-sorts in Cleveland, the city he scorned in free agency, on Thursday night.

“It’s going to be emotional for myself, going back to Cleveland to the fans that I still love to this day,” James said. “Lot of great memories, but I’ve got to try to put that in the back of my mind, understand that we’re coming in to get a win, and play hard and try to get a ‘W.’”

And to think Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was worried that the looming distractions of the ultra-hyped game in Cleveland would take away from Miami’s focus on Wednesday.

Not a problem.

Detroit was taken care of easily. And following “The Decision” this summer in which James picked Miami on national television, now comes “The Return,” not just by him, but for former Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas as well.

“Tomorrow will be a very competitive, passionate game,” Spoelstra said. “And we want to take care of two of our own.”

Play like this in Cleveland, and Miami might be fine.

It was Miami’s second-stingiest defensive showing of the season, only bettered by holding Orlando to 70 points on Oct. 29. The Pistons shot just 36 percent, and no Detroit starter reached double figures. Miami won its second straight after a clearing-the-air team meeting in Dallas on Saturday night.

“We’re starting to put it together,” James said. “After that conversation we had in Dallas, we got a lot of stuff out off our chests and we’ve been playing good basketball since then.”

Juwan Howard scored 12 and Eddie House added 10 for Miami. Greg Monroe led Detroit with 15 points and Charlie Villanueva added 10.

It was one of Miami’s best starts of the season. The Heat made 11 of their first 14 shots, James starting 5 for 6 on his own, and never trailed.

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