WASHINGTON -- The Heat’s commitment to preserving Dwyane Wade’s health for the playoffs appears to have paid off.
After watching Wade suffer through the 2013 postseason with severe knee pain, the Heat’s training staff and coach Erik Spoelstra were overly cautious with their starting shooting guard this season in an effort to protect and save his knees for the playoffs. The approach has worked, said Wade, who reported before Monday’s game that he feels noticeably better right now than he did this time last season.
“The only worse it could get is I wouldn’t be playing,” said Wade, making light of his injury situation last year. “That’s the only worse it could get.”
Wade has missed 28 games this season, and the majority of those games were scheduled days of rest to reduce the wear and tear on his legs. Most recently Wade sat out nine games because of a hamstring injury. Wade has also missed time with a sore Achilles’ tendon.
“Time off always helps, but you still got to focus on it,” Wade said of his many hurting parts. “So by the time the playoffs come, I can feel as good as I want to feel … right now I’m in a good place, and I just want to continue to move forward.”
That’s a positive sign for the Heat, considering Wade sat out the Heat’s second to last game of the 2012-13 season with a sore right knee. That soreness became a chronic problem in the playoffs with Wade sitting out a first-round game against the Milwaukee Bucks and then willing himself to a third championship.
Wade started against the Wizards but played with a minutes restriction for the second game in a row. He was limited to 23 minutes on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks and played about 18 minutes against the Wizards.
Wade is expected to play again Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers at AmericanAirlines Arena in the Heat’s final game of the regular season. LeBron James and Chris Bosh, who both sat out Monday’s game, are questionable. In addition to playing in the Heat’s final two games of the regular season, Wade has been working behind the scenes to improve his conditioning before the playoffs.
“I’ve been going pretty strong,” Wade said. “My game-day workouts are pretty intense. When we get to the playoffs, I’ll take it down a notch. … More so than anything, I want to be able to have enough conditioning to be able to do the things on the floor I need offensively and defensively to give this team the player that they need.”
It wasn’t a completely wasted 48 minutes for the Heat. The team’s final road game of the season served as important court time for Wade. In addition to reestablishing his rhythm and conditioning, Wade also was able to log minutes with the Heat’s second unit.
“That’s going to be a very important unit for us in the playoffs,” Wade said. “Obviously our starters are going to win for us, but at the end of the day what our second unit brings is going to be key in how much success we can have.”
By starting Toney Douglas and Shane Battier for James and Bosh, Spoelstra was able to keep his second-unit together and pair those players with Wade. Over the past two weeks, Spoelstra has made a point to keep his second unit intact in an attempt to preserve continuity off the bench.
“Hopefully we get some [rhythm] with our units as we continue to play together and play off each other,” Wade said before the game. “Even though it’s game 81, we have an opportunity for certain units that haven’t played a lot of minutes together.”
• Greg Oden was not with the team for the second game in a row. Spoelstra said Oden was suffering from a stomach illness.