He arrived at American-Airlines Arena around 3 p.m., nearly 4 1/2 hours before Saturday night’s game.
Before his hours-long pregame practice session was over, Dwyane Wade had put the Heat’s ball boys to good use. He hoisted a few hundred shots inside the Heat’s practice facility long before changing into his warmups for the evening’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. Every shot attempt, made easier by the doubts of his critics, brought him closer to that feeling of confidence only few in the history of game have enjoyed so well.
Considering his offseason knee surgery and a few other minor injuries, Wade had pieced together a productive, if not characteristic, beginning to the regular season before Saturday’s 102-89 victory. Then, against the Nets, Wade reminded everyone that he’s still the best shooting guard in the NBA, even if a few talking heads think otherwise.
“As much as people want to say certain things about me, I really can’t listen to it much,” Wade said. “On this team no one really knows what we deal with, and no one understands the sacrifice.
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“For me, I have to try and be the best player I can be for my team. Some nights it will be a night like [Saturday] and some night’s it’s not, I just have to do what I can.”
Wade’s 34 points in 35 minutes on Saturday was more than enough to topple the Nets, which had won five in a row before running into Wade’s refocused game. Behind the scenes, Wade has been putting in extra work to regain strength in his legs, the source of his career’s success.
Brooklyn might be a rising power in the Eastern Conference, but the Nets still seem no match for the Heat. In two games this season, the Heat has defeated the Nets by a combined score of 43 points. Miami has won 12 consecutive games against the franchise.
After calling Saturday’s victory perhaps the best of the young season, coach Erik Spoelstra awarded his players with an off day Sunday. The Heat is back to work Monday before flying to Washington for its first away game in more than two weeks. Miami has won nine of its past 11 games, and Tuesday’s game against the Wizards comes with a chance to begin a season 13-3 for the first time in franchise history.
Wade’s season-high 34 points against the Nets came amid Miami’s largest come-from-behind victory of the season. The Heat trailed by 14 points in the first half. As the Heat has been wont to do of late, it began the game with a customary nonchalance before Wade took over in the second quarter with 12 points. He had 30 points in the game’s final three quarters.
Wade played aggressively yet under control. He had seven assists but did not offer a single turnover. It was the first turnover-free game for Wade this season.
“Anytime anybody doubts you, you use it as motivation,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “You know what Dwyane is capable of. This is a league where you have to prove yourself constantly.
“Anytime you get motivation from anywhere, it is good that you use it. We know the game that he can play when he is healthy.”
Wade said he’s still a few months away from feeling completely healthy. After Saturday’s game, he said he hopes to be at full strength by the All-Star break. Wade raised his season’s scoring average by more than a point with his effort against Brooklyn. He’s averaging 19.5 points per game, ninth best in the NBA and fifth among guards. Considering the knee surgery and everything else, playing alongside the game’s best player chiefly among them, those aren’t exactly numbers most would choose to describe as a player past his prime.
“He is a competitive guy and very dedicated,” Spoelstra said. “He understands that he can’t control the minor injuries. But he does know it is a long season, and he will put in the time to get his body right.
“He has been doing a lot of things just to make sure that he physically feels good. He is a rhythm player. So the more he practices and works on his game the more he gets into a flow as the season goes on.”