Ten seconds into Sunday’s playoff opener, Dwyane Wade said he looked up at the scoreboard inside AmericanAirlines Arena and thought he might need to call a timeout.
“I looked up and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to wait until under the six-minute mark [to get back to the bench]?” Wade said with a smile on his face after the Heat’s 99-88 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
“I was so tired. I was happy when [Mario Chalmers] got his leg hit so we could call a timeout.”
“The first rush of the playoffs” as Wade called it made his lungs burn a little. But by the time he caught his second wind, it was obvious Sunday that Wade was ready for the postseason. In fact, he was better than he has been in a while.
Sidelined for 28 games by knee and hamstring issues this season, Wade poured in 23 points in 34 stellar minutes — the most he has played since March 16.
He shot an efficient 10 of 16 from the field, running the floor and attacking the basket with ease.
Wade said after Wednesday night’s season finale against Philadelphia that he felt a lot better going into these playoffs than he did a year ago.
After one game, it’s hard to argue. He has already shot 60 percent in these playoffs half as many times as he did a year ago in 22 postseason games.
“Did he look right?” LeBron James. “He looked right to me: 10 for 16 and he was in attack mode and he got to the rim and he was working in transition and he had his step-back going.
“Anytime D-Wade is getting and playing above the rim, you know he’s feeling good.”
At no point Sunday did Wade look like he was feeling any better than when he stepped back and drained a three-pointer — his first since Feb. 2 — with 6:53 remaining.
He pointed to the sky and then punched the air in celebration.
Moments later, a video montage of Wade’s career playoff highlights played on the big screen in the arena for all of a sellout crowd of 19,640 to watch.
Wade watched them and called it “weird and cool at t
he same time.”
“I didn’t have to think too much, just was playing, making the reads,” said Wade, who missed nine of the Heat’s last 12 games of the regular season because of a hamstring injury. “That’s just a sign of feeling good.”
Wade said he wants to continue to improve his conditioning.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said he wouldn’t have played Wade as much as he did Sunday had he not proven he could handle it during a grueling rehab.
“He’s put in a lot of work,” Spoelstra said.
He probably wanted to be cleared a week before we cleared him. He’s been putting in that time of all that miserable conditioning. Other than the fourth quarter, he never really played more than an eight-minute stretch, and that’s probably more important than a full amount of minutes.”
Of Wade’s 10 field goals Sunday, six were delivered in the paint. Three others were jumpers around the key. He also had five assists and only one turnover.
The production was vintage playoff Wade. Maybe even better. In his previous 132 playoff games, Wade’s averages were 39.5 minutes, 23.7 points, 5.2 assists and 47 percent shooting.
“It was just a natural one,” Wade said. “A natural day.”