Programming note: Warriors-Heat coverage tips off tonight at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
OAKLAND – LeBron James comes to town Wednesday and he's on a mission. A couple missions, if you ask the Warriors.
The Heat star, in an NBA-TV interview with Steve Smith, was asked to name the four players on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore. James replied Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. James did not stop there, however, adding that by the time he retires, he'll be up there, having replaced somebody.
“I'm going to be one of the top four players that's ever played this game,” he said.
That combination of passion and skill and will and celestial gifts will be on display at Oracle Arena. James will bring his teammates and they'll be seeking payback for the events of Jan. 2, when the Warriors came out of Miami with a 123-114 victory over the two-time defending champions.
“When you're playing a championship-caliber team, they don't forget,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said.
“They're extremely well coached, obviously, they play at a high level, they play with an edge,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “They're a tight-knit group and, obviously, they're well aware of what took place at South Beach.”
Without injured centers Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O'Neal, the Warriors (31-21) will be rather light in the paint. It just so happens that’s where James likes to go. That's also where his chief sidekick, Dwyane Wade, chases his money.
Yet the Warriors have been able to carve out wins. They usually match up well and they also seem to thrive on facing the best.
In this instance, the Dubs will try to take advantage of the fact that Miami (36-14) played Tuesday night in Phoenix and arrived in the Bay Area during the wee hours.
“Back-to-back or not, they're going to come in here with a focus level of `these guys got us on our home court and we have to go in here and take care of business,' “ Green said. “That's the attitude they came out with last year and they imposed their will on us. We didn't respond.
“We have to make sure we're ready to raise our intensity level higher than theirs.”
Insofar as LeBron spent Monday's practice showing off an array of dunks and then on Tuesday dropped 37 on the Suns, I'd say his intensity level is stratospheric.
So the Warriors have a big job, but one that they've handled before.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: The Squad vs. James. Iguodala and Green likely will take turns with this gargantuan chore, but James is one the few players that demands attention from multiple defenders. He's too big for most wings, too quick and fast for most power forwards and too good for just about anybody trying to stop him.
Thompson vs. Wade. Wade isn't what he used to be, because his body won't allow 40 minutes of full-blast ferocity. So he picks his spots, resting his knees on occasion and usually comes back strong. Be warned: Wade (migraine) sat out Tuesday night's win at Phoenix.
INJURY UPDATE: For the Warriors, C Andrew Bogut (left shoulder bone bruise), C Jermaine O'Neal (right wrist), C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery), G Nemanja Nedovic (strained left hamstring, right foot inflammation) are out.
For the Heat, Wade (right knee) is a game-time decision.
LAST 10: Warriors 5-5, Heat 7-3.
SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors won the first meeting, 123-114, on Jan. 2 in Miami. The teams split two games last season, each winning on the road. The Warriors are the only Western Conference team to beat the Heat twice since the start of the 2012-13 season. Prior to that, the Warriors had lost six in a row to Miami.