SAN ANTONIO -- For several years now, Dwyane Wade has shunned his old nickname and asked teammates, reporters and fans to strike it from their memories. You know the one. It rhymes with slash.
There is a widely understood rule inside and outside of the Heat’s locker room that Wade has prohibited people from calling him Flash, which he says he left in his past and which no longer properly describes a more mature version of himself.
Well, forget all that nonsense. Mike Miller, not exactly a rule follower, couldn’t help himself Thursday night during Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Like an excited fan, Miller randomly screamed “Flash” in Wade’s general direction throughout his resurgent throwback performance. Wade’s effort, buoyed by 33 points from LeBron James and 20 from Chris Bosh, allowed the Heat to tie the best-of-7 NBA Finals at 2-2, ensuring at least one game back in Miami.
Wade, who scored 32 points, joined Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas as the only players in NBA Finals history to score at least 30 points while recording six steals.
Flashy indeed — kind of like all those crazy postgame outfits Wade always wears, only better.
“I needed a game like this, but my teammates needed a game like this from me — needed me to be aggressive; needed me to play the way that I’m capable of,” said Wade, who has now scored at least 32 points in a NBA Finals game seven times in his career. “Most important, they needed the Big 3 to play the way we’re capable of. … We’re not going to win this series if myself, Chris and LeBron don’t show up to play on a consistent basis.
“So [Thursday night] was kind of one of the best performances that we all had in the playoffs together at the same time. Just being aggressive from start to finish, and hopefully that’s what we can see for the next three games.”
Like everyone else, it appears Wade is already preparing for the Finals to go seven games. The Heat hasn’t won two in a row in 10 games now, but Miami will need to link two victories together to earn its third championship in franchise history.
In other words, Wade might need to embrace his inner Flash a few more times. He was averaging less than 15 points per game in the postseason before his vintage performance in Game 4, which reminded anyone with eyes of his epic effort in the 2006 Finals. After falling behind the Mavericks 2-0, the Heat won four in a row with Wade scoring 42, 36, 43 and 36 points in consecutive games.
Wade, with his injured right knee, was always the “X” factor going into these Finals and, considering the injury, James called Wade’s effort in Game 4 “amazing.”
Consider this: Wade scored 18 points in the second half of Game 4. That’s more than double the points he scored in the second halves of Games 1, 2 and 3 combined (eight). For the first time this postseason, Wade kept his knee loose during breaks in the action — between quarters and during substitutions — by wrapping hot packs around his knee. The treatment method now likely will be repeated throughout the rest of the Finals.
Another slight change: Wade said playing more minutes actually helped. He logged 40 minutes in Game 4 after averaging just 33 minutes in the first three games of the Finals. Wade has called his injury a deep bone bruise, but the pain has lingered for months.
“I felt the last couple of times when I went to the bench I stiffened up a little bit,” Wade said. “I tried to keep myself loose and tried to work with [coach Erik Spoelstra] on not sitting me so long. You know, coming out when I get tired and getting back in there a little quicker and trying to keep my body going and moving.”
In a conference call Friday, Spoelstra didn’t go into too much detail about the specifics of Wade’s injury, saying Wade would be “disappointed” if his coach used the injury as an excuse. But Spoelstra did add some weight to Wade’s performance by acknowledging that the Heat shooting guard “really should be commended that he’s out there.”
“He has proven his toughness, and he doesn’t want to talk about his health,” Spoelstra said. “But, hey, he’s willing to go out there and compete for his teammates and open himself up for criticism with expectations of something bigger. And he’s giving us everything he has.
“And [Thursday night] he was able to dig deeper and go to another place that we needed. Sometimes it changes from game to game. But he understood he had to have a major impact on the game [Thursday night] in a lot of different ways. And he did it. That was pretty impressive.”