"He's a difficult player to guard," LeBron James said. "But we've grown as a defensive team."
And in so many other ways.
James scored 33 points -- four more than his good buddy Wade -- and took on the challenge of guarding the NBA's leading scorer down the stretch as the Cavaliers remained the league's only unbeaten team at home with a 93-86 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday night.
For the second straight game, the Cavaliers had to come back late at Quicken Loans Arena to extend their home streak, which is now at 16 straight. Cleveland was down by nine points going into the fourth and trailed by eight before going on an 18-2 run and outscoring Miami 26-11 over the final eight minutes.
"You can tell the fans are into it," James said of Cleveland's run of home wins. "They don't want us to lose all season. It's the third quarter and they're getting a little antsy, we can hear it."
Mo Williams scored 20 before fouling out and Ben Wallace had 14 rebounds for the Cavs (26-4), who won their sixth straight. In the final seconds, Wallace and Varejao played a game of volleyball over the basket, tipping missed shots repeatedly before one dropped through to seal Cleveland's win.
"We call that good clock management," Wallace cracked.
The Heat had their winning streak stopped at four.
Rookie Michael Beasley's uncontested jumper put Miami up 75-67 with 8:09 left and the Cavs' home streak, salvaged on Christmas when they scored 11 unanswered points in the final two minutes to beat the Washington Wizards, was again in trouble.
But James banked in a tough floater and Delonte West made a 3-pointer in a 10-2 spurt that tied it 77-all with six minutes left.
Cleveland clamped down on defense -- Miami scored only 19 in the fourth- made most of its free throws and was fortunate that a couple of 3-pointers hoisted by the Heat in the final minutes were off the mark.
After the horn, James and Wade, who won an Olympic gold medal together this summer for the U.S. Redeem Team in China, embraced before walking off the floor. They'll meet again on Tuesday -- James' 24th birthday -- in Miami.
Pulling up for jumpers at every opportunity, Wade scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the third and the Heat outscored the sluggish Cavs 25-14 in the period to open a 67-58 lead going into the fourth.
But Wade couldn't keep it going with James on him and the Cavs focusing their defensive effort on slowing the superstar, who came in averaging 28.9 points per game.
"He defended me, but most of the night, they were blitzing me with big guys," Wade said. "Every time we play them, LeBron comes to defend me in the fourth, but it's not a one-on-one matchup."
Perhaps trying to show Wade he won't give up his NBA scoring crown without a fight, James made two 3-pointers and scored 20 on 8-of-12 shooting in the first half.
But while James' shots were dropping, his teammates went a combined 8-of-27 and fell back into a bad old habit of standing around, watching and waiting for James to do his thing. The Cavs played lethargically at both ends and had to be thankful Wade, who was 3-of-11 in the first 24 minutes, wasn't on.
"It's still tough to get a stop on D-Wade," James said. "If he's not scoring, he's setting guys up to score. We've been in a lot of big games and we've gone against some of the top players in the game and tried to contain them. You can't stop D-Wade."
James had four field goals in the first quarter, none prettier than a gravity-defying reverse layup on which he somehow spun the ball into the basket from an impossible angle. Driving down the left side, James went up and underneath the backboard and over to the right side, where he sent the ball backhanded high off the glass and in while being fouled.
- Heat F Udonis Haslem needed stitches to close a gash over his right eye, the result of an accidental elbow from James during a loose-ball scramble.
- Miami rookie G Mario Chalmers strained his right hamstring in the fourth.
- James was not available for pregame interviews as the avid Dallas Cowboys fan stayed in the trainer's room to watch America's Team get clobbered 44-6 by the Philadelphia Eagles and eliminated from playoff contention.
- Cavs F Wally Szczerbiak sat out with a bruised right knee and is expected to miss at least one week. He has been bothered by a soreness in his knee for several weeks.