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 four-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 floor.
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, 50-34.
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."
|LeBron James scores 38 points on his birthday, but all he really wants is the win. (Getty Images)|
|Miami (17-13) «||26||24||24||30||104|
|CLE:L. James 38 Pts
CLE:A. Varejao 10 Reb
CLE:L. James 7 Ast
|MIA:D. Wade 21 Pts
MIA:S. Marion 11 Reb
MIA:D. Wade 12 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|L. James, SF||43||12-24||11-14||2||7||2||38|
|D. West, SG||40||8-16||0-1||3||3||3||20|
|B. Wallace, C||34||1-4||2-2||8||0||1||4|
|M. Williams, PG||33||2-8||4-4||2||5||2||10|
|Z. Ilgauskas, C||25||4-6||0-0||5||0||3||8|
|D. Gibson, PG||25||3-9||1-2||1||1||1||9|
|A. Varejao, C||24||1-1||0-2||10||0||5||2|
|J. Hickson, PF||10||1-1||0-0||1||1||3||2|
|S. Pavlovic, SG||5||1-2||0-0||0||0||3||2|
|T. Kinsey, SF||3||0-0||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|E. Snow, PG||Did Not Play|
|L. Wright, C||Did Not Play|
|W. Szczerbiak, SF||Did Not Play|
|J. Williams, F||Did Not Play|
|D. Jackson, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|D. Wade, SG||42||7-23||7-8||5||12||1||21|
|U. Haslem, PF||42||5-11||3-6||10||3||3||13|
|M. Chalmers, PG||40||7-9||1-2||3||8||0||21|
|S. Marion, PF||36||5-10||4-5||11||1||4||14|
|J. Anthony, C||21||3-5||1-1||4||0||3||7|
|D. Cook, SG||26||5-9||2-2||2||1||3||17|
|M. Beasley, PF||13||1-5||6-6||5||0||3||8|
|M. Banks, PG||8||1-1||1-2||0||1||1||3|
|J. Magloire, C||6||0-2||0-0||2||0||2||0|
|Y. Diawara, SG||5||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|M. Blount, C||Did Not Play|
|S. Livingston, PG||Did Not Play|
|D. Wright, SF||Did Not Play|
|J. Jones, SF||Did Not Play|
|C. Quinn, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|