The jet was practically fired up for South Florida; the Hummer was warming for southbound Interstate 77.
Everyone looked settled in for a nice winter's feel-good victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena, a sellout crowd-pleaser and a lazy get-home game for the Miami Heat. Playing their fourth game in five nights all on the icy side of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Heat looked to be longing for South Beach down 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Content to let his hot-shooting teammates shoulder the load, LeBron James was happy to playfully pass out assists and cruise toward victory.
Neither party seemed prepared for a wild, wacky and even lumpy fourth quarter that was set to ensue. It ended after plenty of drama with the Cavs clinging to a 115-107 victory. It was their second consecutive win over a quality opponent, pushing recent doldrums to the background. But it came at a cost, and not just in energy, as both Zydrunas Ilgauskas (head) and Drew Gooden (ankle sprain) were forced from the floor due to injuries.
All was not settled until the Heat (14-11) rallied to within four points before James lifted the Cavs (13-9) to victory. A 14-0 run caused the lead to evaporate, and it looked seriously dicey until James scored 13 consecutive Cavs points to save the night.
He finished with 41 points, his second highest total of the season, and equaled his season-high with 10 assists. James scored 16 points in the final quarter, and the Cavs needed each other to hold off the charge.
He made 5-of-7 shots in the quarter, several of them twisting jumpers with Miami players crowding him.
"I was about time for me to wake up and for me to be more aggressive," James said. "Once I start feeling like that, I feel unstoppable."
That feeling was shared.
"What are you going to do?," Heat coach Pat Riley said after suffering his first loss in four tries since taking over as coach earlier this week. `I've seen too many players like him."
The Heat mounted the comeback with resident superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade on the bench. But it was no white flag in the end, when both returned to the floor to try to finish the comeback. Wade ended with 33 points, but O'Neal never got into the flow.
Shaq, perhaps showing fatigue after being asked to play so many minutes in such a short time period after a month off due to a sprained ankle, managed just 10 points.
It was a departure from the norm, the first time in 10 games over six years that the Cavs were able to win a game in which O'Neal played.
It was largely due to James' heroics, which stunned even his coach.
"He put us on his back and carried us, and I'll be the first to admit he carried me, too," Brown said. "I'd call a play, and he'd get it done for us."
For much of the game, James' offensive talent was so desperately needed. In the style more suited to the ball club's construction _ and one rarely shown during the skid in which it dropped seven out of nine games _ the Cavs built an impressive cushion with excellent team offense and defense.
They hassled O'Neal whenever he got the ball, bringing double teams and rotating to cover the passes.
They also shared the ball offensively the best that they have all season, dishing out a season-high 29 assists. Larry Hughes was active in scoring 20 points, 19 of them in the first half. And Donyell Marshall added a season-high 25 with 13 rebounds.
The only downside was the injuries. Ilgauskas got a shoulder in the head from Wade in fourth quarter that raised two large lumps on his temple. Gooden re-sprained his left ankle in the first half and didn't return.
Neither player is expected to be out long.
In other NBA action: LA Clippers 89, Houston 81; Detroit 103, Charlotte 78; Memphis 91, Phoenix 87; Indiana 102, New York 96; Chicago 118, Boston 86; San Antonio 90, Sacramento 89; Utah 88, Milwaukee 80.