Even with that, it wasn't a happy 24th for King James.
Wade had 21 points and 12 assists, Mario Chalmers was 6-for-7
from 3-point range in a 21-point, eight-assist, no-turnover effort,
and the Miami Heat dropped James' pro record on birthdays to 0-3 by
beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-95 on Tuesday night.
"It's sad," James said. "I'm going to cry."
No, he wasn't serious.
But during a scintillating second half, James seemed as though
he was going to put a damper on Miami's collective mood.
Fittingly, he scored 24 of his game-high 38 points after
intermission, almost enough to rally Cleveland from a 16-point
deficit -- its largest of the season. He hit a 3-pointer with 8:55
remaining to get the Cavs to 78-77, then turned and had something
to say to the Miami bench, something he did often Sunday, when
Cleveland erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat
the visiting Heat.
Only this time, Miami got the last word.
A surprising switch to zone defense not only stopped Cleveland's
offense in its tracks, it sparked a 16-3 run over a 4-minute
stretch of the final quarter -- the final blow in handing the Cavs
just their fifth loss in 31 games this season.
"We weren't into a nice birthday present this time around for
LeBron," Wade said. "He got one the other night in Cleveland."
Daequan Cook scored 17 points -- with all five field goals being
3-pointers, meaning he and Chalmers combined to go 11-for-14 from
beyond the arc -- for the Heat. Shawn Marion (14 points, 11
rebounds) and Udonis Haslem (13 points, 10 rebounds) added
double-doubles for Miami.
"We have to give their young cats, Cook and Chalmers, credit,"
Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "They stepped up and hit big shot
after big shot."
Chalmers hit a 3-pointer with 7:11 left, then stripped James and
went in for an easy layup, part of a 9-0 run that gave Miami an
87-77 lead. Later, Chalmers hit Cook for a 3-pointer, putting the
Heat up by 14, and the sellout crowd bellowed as the rookie guard
from Kansas pointed skyward and Wade pumped a fist in celebration.
Miami, the NBA's worst team last year, has already beaten two
legitimate title contenders -- the Lakers and now the Cavaliers -- at
home this season.
"It's a long season. We've still got a couple tough teams
coming in," Haslem said. "But obviously, one thing you do want to
do throughout the season is take care of home."
Wade didn't need to do all the scoring: He was 7-for-23 from the
But like James, he also played the entire second half,
quarterbacking everything Miami did.
"I told him during the first timeout, 'This is your rest. Enjoy
it,"' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "If James wasn't coming
out, neither was he."
If there was a hangover from wasting a chance to spoil
Cleveland's still-perfect home record Sunday night, the Heat didn't
show it in the early going.
Wade came up with the first highlight, diving out of bounds to
save the ball, then taking a seat in a fan's lap as Chalmers hit a
3-pointer for a quick 13-9 lead. And at intermission, Miami seemed
to have Cleveland totally befuddled - the Cavs shot 10-for-32 in
the first half and faced their biggest deficit of the season,
Not hardly -- not with James around.
Cleveland shot 72 percent, more than doubling its first-half
showing, in the third quarter, with James getting 14 points and two
assists. The Cavs closed the third on a 10-2 run, with James
getting eight of those points, to set up a wild finish.
"They had us pretty good at halftime, but to our credit we got
it down to one," James said. "We just couldn't finish it."
Wade went out with James and his close friends Monday night
for a birthday party, but didn't get a gift. "He's got more money
than me," Wade said. ... Plenty of celebrities were in the seats,
including playoff-bound Miami Dolphins Channing Crowder, Joey Porter and Ronnie Brown, actor Jamie Foxx, Dolphins great Dan
Marino, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres and singer Kelly Rowland. ...
For the first time this season, the Heat had 15 healthy players at
the morning shootaround. Forwards James Jones (wrist) and Dorell
Wright (knee) are working their way back from injuries and aiming
to make season debuts in the coming weeks.
Miami Heat president Pat Riley ready to run it back next season with similar team
Heat president Pat Riley enters the offseason with no intention of letting free agent Goran Dragic get away, and he wants to sign Bam Adebayo to an extension.
Sources: NBA eyes pre-Christmas start, 72-game regular season
Amid the pandemic, the NBA is proposing several changes to next season that includes a 72-game regular season, a play-in tournament and the likelihood of no All-Star Game in Indianapolis, sources said.
Is it realistic to start the NBA season on Christmas Day?
Brian Windhorst estimates the NBA will ultimately restart the season before Christmas Day and end in June to get back on track for the 2021-22 season.