BOSTON -- This hasnt looked right. Not in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Not in Game 4, not in Game 5, and certainly not in Game 6 on Thursday night, when LeBron James carried the Heat to a 98-79 win to force Game 7.
There was Dwyane Wade, the face of the Miami Heat, his hands on his knees in the deepest corner of the parquet floor at TD Garden, watching still as James handled the ball.
Wade, the 2006 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player after averaging 34.7 points per game, finding himself one-on-one in the paint, yet instead of pulling a fake, maybe a quick hop-step and finish, Wade turned his back to the hoop and gave the ball away.
Maybe hes injured. Maybe hes still dealing with lingering knee and leg soreness, as was reported in mid-May.
Whatever the issue, perhaps its time to accept that right now, after the Heat has played 83 games in 163 days since Christmas, this is a different Wade.
He couldnt get the ball to drop down, I know not as much he wouldve liked to, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wades Game 6 performance, when he went 6 for 17 (35 percent) from the floor.
Spoelstra was asked if there was something hindering the 30-year-old shooting guard following Game 4.
He started to smirk and instantly shook his head, giving an at-the-ready response like a child who had anticipated his mother would blame him for the empty cookie jar.
No theres nothing wrong, Spoelstra said. This is deep into the playoffs.
You can ask that question of any player who is logging significant minutes. But hes still able to impact the game.
The strange part of Wades unusual performance in the Eastern Conference finals lies in the differences between halves.
After his 1-for-6, first-half performance on Thursday, Wade is 12 for 46 (26 percent) in first halves of this series with 35 total points. Yet he continues to put up numbers in the second half, scoring 92 points.
Every one of his first-half shots in Game 6 looked different, almost off balance, as if he wasnt getting enough push from his lower legs.
He was expending quite a bit of energy [defensively], Spoelstra said.
And we needed every part of that.
Said Wade, My job early was to do my best to make it tough on [Rajon] Rondo.
But after James put up 30 points in the first half, Wade played better off of him in the second, moving more quickly underneath the basket and scoring four of his five field goals from the paint.
I was trying to wait for my opportunity, Wade said.
I had a couple shots early that I missed that I would normally make, but I was able to stick with it.
Still adding value
This might not be the Wade that most expected to show up when facing elimination in the Eastern Conference finals. He is averaging just 21.2 points per game this series, far from his numbers when the Heat won it all in 2006. But hes still finding ways to add value.
Perhaps its time to alter expectations.
Dwyane Wade isnt the MVP. But hes still Wade.