At game’s end, only James left happy.
James hit two free throws after a scary tumble and blow to the head with 4.1 seconds left for the winning points, and Wade missed a jumper over the reigning MVP’s outstretched arm at the buzzer as the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat 92-91 on Monday night.
“It came down to one possession,” said James, who matched Wade with a game-high 32 points. “Whoever got the last stop was going to win the game. Luckily it was us.”
Wade had 30 at halftime, then only two the rest of the way—and missed two big free throws with 41.2 seconds left, part of a 1 of 6 showing from the line by the Heat in the fourth quarter .
It cost Miami dearly.
“We put ourselves in the right position,” Wade said. “Just mistakes tonight that I made that I normally don’t … cost us.”
As great as the back-and-forth between Wade and James was at times, the last half-minute might be all anyone remembers from this one.
Guarding his good friend for the first time all night, Wade blocked James’ shot with about 28 seconds left, giving Miami the ball and a one-point lead. But on the ensuing possession, James—defending Wade this time—came up with a steal when the league’s defending scoring champion tried a wraparound pass, drove in from halfcourt and created what became a frightening scene for both teams.
James and Wade went toward the hoop together, with Quentin Richardson(notes) defending as well. Both James and Wade landed awkwardly, and James writhed in pain for about 2 minutes as the entire Cavs’ bench came out to check on their fallen leader. He got up, walked Richardson’s foul off and made two free throws with 4.1 seconds left for a 92-91 lead.
“For him to get up after that collision and knock down two free throws the way that he did, he’s got ice water in his veins, baby,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “Ice water.”
And in the ensuing huddle, Brown wanted to call a double-team on Wade. The coach was overruled.
“I got D-Wade,” James said.
Wade’s shot bounced off the iron, and it was over.
“The good, the bad, you’re up, you’re down,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’ll take it all with this team.”
Wade had 10 rebounds and five assists for Miami. Jermaine O’Neal(notes) finished with 18 points, Michael Beasley(notes) had 16 and Rafer Alston(notes) and Udonis Haslem(notes) each scored 10 for the Heat.
Jermaine O’Neal had 14 in the first quarter, Wade had 13 in the period, and Miami was off and running with a 34-24 lead after the first 12 minutes.
That was only the warmup act.
The second quarter was pure theater, Wade vs. LeBron.
So good was the show that hardly anyone noticed that Wade’s teammates missed 15 straight shots over a 15 1/2 -minute stretch, including 0 for 12 in the second quarter alone. Miami missed 12 straight before Wade made a step-back jumper with 3:37 left in the half put Miami up 40-39, and he followed that up with a 3-pointer while getting fouled by Jamario Moon(notes) to ignite the crowd.
James answered, a 3-pointer of his own making it a one-point game again.
It was on.
“The competition,” Spoelstra said, “was fantastic.”
Wade made a jumper and couldn’t contain his grin as the building roared, knowing it was seeing a glorified game of 1-on-1 between two of the game’s elite. James cleared everyone else out against Richardson, rebutting with a fallaway jumper of his own.
They were just getting started.
“Two really, really good friends, one of my best friends that I have, just two great competitors not wanting to lose to each other,” James said. “But at the same time, knowing that we’re putting on a show not only for each other, but for the fans and whoever was watching the game.”
Wade missed a free throw with 29 seconds left until intermission, ran down the rebound and gave Miami another possession—which he capped with a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left, flashing dueling “3” signs behind his back after sealing the fourth 30-point half of his career. Undeterred, with 1.2 ticks remaining, James hit—what else?—a 3-pointer, cutting Miami’s lead to 54-50.
The teams scored 46 points total in the second quarter. James (20) and Wade (17) combined for 37 of them.
And when it was over, the scene in the Miami locker room told the story.
“Tough one, right?” Beasley asked Richardson, who only nodded in silence.
NOTES: All four instances of Wade scoring 30 in a half have come at home, two of them against Cleveland. … The teams combined to miss their first 10 shots of the second quarter. … Creative sign of the night: With a nod to this summer’s expected free agent bonanza, a fan held up a placard during a second-quarter time-out with the Facebook logo, saying James had changed his status from “in a relationship with the Cavs” to “in a relationship with the Heat.”