SAN ANTONIO -- Dwyane Wade bounced off Spurs guard Danny Green and tossed up a shot just before he hit the floor. The ball banked in and he drew the foul — a vintage Wade play.
And for the first time in these NBA Finals, it happened in the second half.
Wade entered Game 4 with eight total second-half points for the series. He took over in the second half Thursday night, scoring 18 of his series-high 32 points in the 109-93 Heat victory.
It might have matched his NBA Finals performances of 2006 at a moment when the Heat needed him the most. Wade and the Heat bounced back from Tuesday’s 36-point Game 3 loss, evening the series at 2-2 and ensuring that the NBA Finals would return to Miami.
Wade made 14 of 25 shots and was just as effective on the defensive end, finishing with six rebounds and six steals at the AT&T Center.
He made 8 of 14 shots in the second half, double the amount of field goals he hit in the first three games. Entering Thursday, Wade was shooting 4 for 18 (22.2 percent) in the second half for the series.
“His floor game was there from the beginning,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The six steals were a reflection.”
When LeBron James was on the bench early in the fourth quarter, Wade attacked. He cut through and made a left-handed shot, then followed it on the next possession by stealing the ball from Green, driving past Gary Neal and finishing with a dunk.
A midrange jumper after that gave Wade six consecutive Heat points, 30 for the night and gave Miami a 92-83 lead.
There weren’t the signs of Wade’s nagging knee injury that have followed him for the past two months. There wasn’t the question of whether the Heat would need to rely too much on James with Wade hobbled. Wade hasn’t had a night like Thursday since his knee injury became a larger concern. Wade’s last 30-point game came on March 4 when he scored 32 in a victory against Minnesota.
Wade showed that he was due for a breakthrough with a strong first half, scoring14 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He was aggressive on defense, joining other Heat players who had blocks on Spurs center Tiago Splitter with one of his own in the second quarter.
But the first half hasn’t been the issue. He has averaged 12.3 points per game in the first half this series. He scored five of the Heat’s first nine points of the second half to erase any doubt that those second-half struggles would be there for a fourth game.
“That was his best game of the playoffs by far,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “That’s what great players do. They show up in big games.”
Wade’s performance overshadowed Chris Bosh’s best game, as Bosh finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Bosh’s inside presence also gave Wade more room to work.
After three games of the series, Spurs guards Kawhi Leonard, Green and Neal had combined for 130 points — the same number as James, Wade and Bosh. Wade’s defense helped limit those three Spurs to 35 combined points Thursday, while the Heat’s Big 3 finished with 85.
Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the 2006 Finals against Dallas, in the argument for the greatest Finals performance ever. That version of Wade returned Thursday.