Even after off-season knee surgery, Dwyane Wade didn’t let doubts about how much productivity he had left bother him.
With LeBron James putting up historic numbers seemingly each month this season, Wade’s ability to play better without the basketball has helped the Heat maintain itself far ahead of the rest of the field in the Eastern Conference and put together a franchise-record winning streak.
During the Heat’s winning streak, Wade has scored 20 points or more in 14 of 16 wins entering Friday. He has scored 30 or more points five times.
“It’s kind of simple: You either figure out or you don’t,” Wade said. “Once I realized that the ball was going to be out of my hands and I’d have it a lot less than I was used to, I had to find a way to be productive and effective the way that would be comfortable for me and better for the team.”
Wade is having his most efficient shooting season of his career.
Wade entered Friday’s game shooting a career-best 52.2 percent and averaging 21.7 points and 5.0 assists per game. He shot 61.9 percent over the Heat’s seven previous games and has been especially clutch late in games, shooting 61 percent in the fourth quarter since the start of February.
Wade also extended his streak of games with at least one steal to 21 in a row on Friday.
“There are moments that you never want to be doubted,” Wade said. “For the most part, I go through a point like that every year the past few years. I understand that for me when I’m healthy, there’s not much you can say because I can affect games in many different ways.
“My role is just different now. I ask myself would I rather do great things on a bad team and average 27 points per game or average 22 and be on one of the best teams.”
At 31, Wade has been able to evolve his game without sacrificing his aggressive style that made him one of the most explosive players in the league early in his career.
“What’s best for the team is me and LeBron attacking,” Wade said. “I had to figure out what was best. Playing in the 2008 Olympics prepared me to play off the ball better. I’m an attacker by nature, and I’m going to be until the day they say it’s time for me to get out of here. One day I’ll shoot more threes and become more that type of player, but it’s not time for that yet.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the reason Wade left Wednesday’s game briefly against the Magic was because “his toenail came off.”
Wade was replaced in the lineup for four minutes by guard Mike Miller, who had not played since Feb. 8.
“LeBron was out and Dwyane had to go to the locker room, so I went with Mike because that group was more familiar playing together,” Spoelstra said. “I didn’t know how long [Wade] would be out at the time. It hasn’t been easy for guys [like Miller not playing], but they’ve been extremely professional. Sometimes when you have so many veteran players, it has the potential to be a distraction. Our guys understand what we are playing for.”
Being a Duke graduate, Shane Battier has been following the University of Miami men’s basketball team’s rise to national prominence this season.
Battier said he knew his alma mater would be ready to even the score as it did recently when Duke beat the Hurricanes in the two schools’ second meeting of the season.
“I knew coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] would have those guys ready to play,” Battier said. “A lot of people were confident in having a repeat of how Miami played the first game, but I knew it wouldn’t happen.
Battier, however, praised the Canes and believes the teams are destined for a third showdown in the upcoming ACC tournament.
“The Canes are definitely good, there’s no doubt and what they’ve done has been great for the city,” Battier said. “They gave my guys a hard time in Coral Gables, but we got them back at Cameron. The Canes are definitely good and have a shot at the Final Four this season.”