Rio de Janeiro: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers held off the Miami Heat 122-119 in overtime Saturday in an emotional NBA pre-season clash that saw James face his former team for the first time.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James and Cleveland`s Brazilian forward Anderson Varejao dominated the headlines in the build-up to the exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.
But James struggled with his shot, missing six of his first seven attempts and finishing two-for-eight from the floor.
However, he contributed eight assists -- many of them to Kevin Love, who was brought to Cleveland to provide support to James and whose 25 points and seven rebounds proved crucial.
James said it was a "special moment" to take the court against the team-mates he left behind just three months ago.
"I didn`t get that awkward feeling, but I did get a lot of memories coming back. It was definitely great to see them," he said.
James, who won two NBA titles in four seasons in Miami and played in two other championship finals, opted to return this season to try to lead the Cavaliers to the crown he could never capture in his first stint with his home state team -- where he began his NBA career in 2003.
His departure from Miami broke up the Heat`s vaunted "Big Three" of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Love shot 9-for-12 in the game, connecting on four of his five three-point attempts.
"As a team we`re still in our infant stages and we feel like this trip was very productive for us," Love said.
Cleveland`s new coach David Blatt was full of praise for Love.
"It seemed he found his way today on our team," said Blatt. "I think for any new player in a new system like we have, it`s going to take some time. Kevin has a great basketball IQ and figured it out very quickly."
Love`s performance and James` meeting with his former team-mates overshadowed Varejao`s homecoming.
The local hero received a rapturous welcome and scored 14 points.
"I had to control myself not to cry when the crowd started screaming my name," he said.
As expected, Cleveland`s Kyrie Irving -- named Most Valuable Player of the World Cup in Spain last month -- sat out with a sprained right ankle.
Blatt is limiting his players` minutes in exhibition games, and with Cleveland`s stars on the bench in the fourth quarter the Heat erased a double-digit deficit to force overtime.
The Cavaliers regained control in the extra session to notch their second victory in as many pre-season games, while Miami suffered their third pre-season defeat.