MIAMI -- Ninety minutes before tipoff, LeBron James stood at his locker with a pair of scissors, trimming loose threads from the front of his jersey.
Wade scored 36 points but couldn't rally the Heat from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Instead, James had Cleveland's final eight points over the last 2:42.
"He closed the game with a killer instinct in the right way on both ends of the floor," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "Man, for me that was so fun to watch. It's indescribable almost. He willed the end of the game to go the way it did. It was flat-out beautiful, like Picasso."
James finished with seven assists and went 16 for 18 from the free-throw line, while Wade was just as good for the Heat. His baskets included a dunk that James said might make the NBA's all-time top-10 list.
"I like playing against LeBron more than anybody else in the league," Wade said. "He brings out the best in me, and I bring out the best in him."
The All-Star duel took place amid speculation James and Wade might become teammates next season.
"We knew because of D-Wade it was going to be a high-energy game," said the Cavs' Shaquille O'Neal, who scored 14 points in a return to his former home court. "It's very, very exciting watching him and LeBron going back and forth."
The Cavs' point total was a season high, and it came against a team ranked third in the NBA in scoring defense.
"Giving up 111 points, that's not our style and that's not our identity," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We won't win many games like that."
Michael Beasley scored a season-high 24 points for the Heat, who lost for only the second time. Cleveland won in Florida for the second time in as many nights after beating Orlando on Wednesday.
James and Wade shared a long embrace just before tipoff, and they joked during a timeout near the end of the first half. They can opt out of their contracts next year, and on Wednesday, Wade said the pair have talked about going to the same team.
James then said he won't discuss free agency with reporters any more until the end of the season. For now, at least, the two good friends entertain as opponents.
"It's like being out back with your big brother or little brother," James said. "You don't want him to get the upper edge. You don't want them bragging and talking about it all week. Me and D-Wade are always competing. We're friends and everything, but when we're out on the court we're fierce rivals."
Wade made a 3-pointer, blocked a shot and sank another shot to cut the margin to 103-99 with three minutes left, but the Heat got no closer. James answered with a 3-pointer, then hit five free throws to make it 111-102 with 57 seconds to go as the arena quickly emptied.
"It starts with me -- closing the games out," James said. "If I'm being lax, if I'm not being aggressive and putting pressure on the defense, the rest of the team is not going to do the same. I just tried to put as much pressure as we could offensively, tried to get as many stops as possible, and come out with a win. We had played so well for most of the game, you don't want to let a game like this get away."
Wade made the first highlight-footage contribution with a driving dunk over 6-foot-11 Anderson Varejao.
"It was great, probably top 10 all-time," James said. "That was an unbelievable play by a great player."
Wade and Varejao drew a double technical moments later for a heated exchange.
Wade sank a 3-pointer over James with 4 seconds left in the first quarter. James then hit a running 22-footer at the buzzer to put the Cavs up 35-33.
James missed his first five shots but still scored 15 points in the quarter.
Williams made seven consecutive shots during one stretch, and his 3-pointers helped the Cavs take a 92-84 lead into the final period.
Michael Jordan watched sitting next to Heat president Pat Riley. They were two rows behind Scottie Pippen, who sat courtside. The crowd also included Dara Torres. ... Wade scored at least 20 points for the 21st consecutive time, tying his franchise record.
- Greg Willard
- Sean Corbin
- Sean Wright