James triumphs over boos

Tony Dejak/AP Photo
Cleveland fans look on as Miami's LeBron James performs his powder toss ritual at the scorer's table. He scored 38 points.

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


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.

In the process, he turned his hostile homecoming into another embarrassing moment for the Cavaliers.

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.

"I know this court. I've made a lot of shots on this court," he said.

As he did so many times during seven seasons for the Cavs, the two-time defending 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.

James remained defiant afterward, saying he didn't regret his decision to leave Cleveland.

"I don't want to apologize," he said. "I think my intentions were not to hurt anyone. My intentions were solely on kids during that whole process.

"I always say, decisions I make, I live with them. There's always ways you can correct them or ways you can do them better," he said. "At the end of the day, I live with them. I'm satisfied and happy right now."

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.

It was rowdy, but thankfully, not violent.

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.

Miami outscored Cleveland 36-25 in the third to open a 95-65 lead.

That promoted Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to pull his superstar. James spent the final 12 minutes as a spectator, glancing at the scoreboard and into the stands at so many familiar faces.