Things aren't going so hot for the Miami Heat right now, but the mere sight of the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Wednesday night figures to spike the NBA champions' collective temperature.
The Heat has lost three of four on its current six-game trip, which should be enough to fire up LeBron James and Co. They blew a 12-point lead in a loss at Portland on Thursday, then were whipped soundly by Utah on Monday in a game in which Chris Bosh had one rebound in 26 minutes and Dwyane Wade sat out the entire fourth quarter in a stew.
Miami is tired, out of sync and cranky as it hits the Bay Area, and the Heat has gone under cover to boot. A scheduled practice at USF was canceled Tuesday, as was media access to the team.
But even with Miami mum, everyone knows the score. The Heat has some heavy payback on the books due Golden State, and that might be just the tonic for the struggling champs.
The Warriors beat the Heat 97-95 in Miami last month when rookie forward Draymond Green took a feed under the basket from Jarrett Jack and scored the game-winning bucket with 0.9 seconds left. They also beat the Heat in overtime at Oracle a year ago.
More incentive needed? James, who surely hasn't forgotten the hard foul he took from David Lee in the last meeting, is 18 points shy of becoming the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points. At 28 years, 17 days, he'll beat Kobe Bryant's mark of 29 years, 122 by more than a
Green, who received a hug and flattering compliments from James after the Warriors' win Dec. 12, doesn't expect the same kind of pleasantries from LeBron this time around, particularly with that career milestone on the tee.
"He's going to be in attack mode," Green said. "Every time he steps on the court, he's liable to do something special or something spectacular. But probably even more so in this game."
Green, who performed well defensively down the stretch against the NBA's reigning MVP, is well aware that someone on the Warriors is likely going to be the victim of James' 20,000th point. LeBron has scored at least 18 points in 74 of his last 75 games, and he's coming off a 32-point effort against the Jazz.
"I definitely don't want to be in that poster or the video that's going to continue to play," said Green.
James is definitely stoked to get to 20K if his comments to assembled media in Utah are any indication.
"It's more than a number," James said. "It means I've been able to stay healthy, for one. And I've been able to, I guess, play at a high level, and been around teammates that allow me to play at a high level, as well. So it is more than number."
The Warriors, of course, have their own incentive. They've lost three of four with several tough games besides Miami ahead of them.
"We're not going to win all these games in the month of January, but we're going to keep grinding every single game, and we're going to find a way to get as many of these as we can," Lee said.
"We'll see how he responds and act accordingly," coach Mark Jackson said. "I didn't want him out there banging (at practice). I wanted to give it another day of rest. He says he's going to be fine, but we're being smart with it. We want to make sure he's right before he steps on the floor."
Miami (24-12) at Warriors (23-13), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA