Heat forward Michael Beasley (30) fights for the ball with Cavaliers center Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal finished with 19 points.
Lynne Sladky / AP Enlarge
MIAMI - LeBron James hit two free throws after a scary tumble with 4.1 seconds left for the winning points, and Dwyane Wade missed a jumper at the buzzer as the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat 92-91 Monday night.
Wade finished with 32 points for Miami, all but two of them in what was an epic first half shootout between superstars. But he 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 - and it cost Miami dearly.
Shaquille O'Neal scored 19, Daniel Gibson had 15, and Anderson Varejao finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland.
Wade had 10 rebounds and five assists for Miami. Jermaine O'Neal finished with 18 points, Michael Beasley had 16, and Rafer Alston and Udonis Haslem each scored 10 for the Heat.
As great as it 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 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, drove in from halfcourt and caused what became a frightening scene for both teams.
James and Wade went toward the hoop together, with Quentin Richardson defending as well. Both James and Wade landed awkwardly, and James writhed in pain for about 2 minutes as the 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.
And when Wade missed a
jumper over James at the buzzer, it was over.
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, with everyone else merely witnesses.
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 stepback jumper with
3:37 left in the half put Miami up 40-39, and he followed that with a 3-pointer while getting fouled by Jamario Moon to ignite the crowd.
James answered with a
3-pointer of his own making it a one-point game again.
It was on.
Wade made a jumper and couldn't contain his grin as the building roared, knowing it was seeing a 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. Alas, they were just getting started.
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 a 3-pointer, cutting Miami's lead to 54-50.
Combined, the teams scored 46 points in the second quarter.
The pace slowed to a crawl in the third. James scored only four points on 2 of 6 shooting, Wade went scoreless on four shots.
NOTES: All four instances of Wade scoring 30 in a half have come at home, two of them against Cleveland. ... Shaquille O'Neal was 4 for 4 when he went to the bench with two fouls midway through the first quarter. ... The teams combined to miss their first 10 shots of the second quarter.