There are certain games on the schedule you look at and rub your hands in anticipation. And there are certain moments in such games that validate the anticipation.
And with about five and a half minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Cavaliers 92-91 win in Miami validation arrived.
It was at about that point that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James decided to ignore the eight other guys on the court and the 20,000 or so fans that packed into American Airlines Arena and just decided to fight it out mano y mano, much to the delight of basketball fans everywhere.
Wade and James waged a personal war of three point bombs, drives to the hoop and thumping dunks that dominated the night in Miami and dominated the highlight shows for hours afterward. From the 5:30 mark in the 2nd quarter up until Daniel Gibson hit a lay up with 1:35 left in the half the two teams combined to score 23 points. James had 12 of them and Wade had 11. After Gibson's bucket and after Udonis Haslem hit a free throw for Miami, Wade capped off Miami's first half scoring with a silky smooth step-back three pointer.
But he left six seconds on the clock.
That was more than enough time for James to calmly trot the ball up the court and step into his own 27-foot exclamation point of a three as the first half ended, James and Wade smiled at each other and fans gasped for breath.
James may have saved his best for last though. With Miami clinging to a one point lead and ten seconds remaining in the ballgame, LeBron read Wade's behind-the-back pass attempt, picked it off and raced to the other of the floor. He was nearly beheaded on the drive to the basket but he calmly sank the two free throws to lift the Cavs to their fifth win a row. That's five in a row and the last four have come against superstars Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Wade.
LBJ scored 32 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a virtuoso performance. Shaquille O'Neal backed him up with 19 points and five boards. Daniel Gibson scored 15 big points and even tallied one assist while Anderson Varejao added 13 points and hauled down 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Wade was masterful in the first half. His 30 points in the first two quarters came on a variety of jumpers and graceful slashes to the rim. But he paid a price for that first half after the intermission. Wade scored just two points in the second half to equal LeBron's 32 on the night. Much of Wade's struggle in the second half was due to fatigue. But some of it was due to Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and James draping themselves all over Wade and refusing to allow him to get loose.
Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley backed Wade with 18 and 16 points respectively.
They put the clamps down on Wade in the second half, survived as God-awful a night of officiating as you're likely to see and then made more big plays down the stretch than Miami did to get the win.
It's the signature of a talented team that can put the past behind them and scratch out a win in a hostile arena on a night when they could easily have packed it in and been content with last week's results.
The Cavs bench, much of it due to Varejao, also outscored the Heat bench by a 24-13 margin.
They Got Next
The 35-11 Cavaliers look to make it straight wins Wednesday night at ‘The Q' against the Minnesota Timberwolves. You can check it out starting at 7pm on FSN Ohio.