There are still these nights, though far less frequently now, when Dwyane Wade grabs the scoring reins for the Heat, as he did routinely in the pre-LeBron James era.
Saturday at Wachovia Center was one of those nights, and Wade’s 33-point masterpiece was all the more captivating because it was accompanied by playmaking brilliance from James, who crafted his third triple-double of the season and delivered passes, both routine and remarkable, that his teammates often parlayed into baskets.
With Wade shooting 14 for 18 from the field — and James filling the box score with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists — the Heat methodically dismantled Philadelphia 114-90 to push its season-high winning streak to 10.
“A professional win,” coach Erik Spoelstra called it.
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In sweeping its three-game road trip, the Heat extended the second-longest streak of the Big 3 era. It’s two short of Miami’s 12-game run during the 2010-11 season.
Wade scored 17 in the first half and 16 in the second, falling two short of his season-high scoring output. He was pure on his jumper, shooting 9 for 12 on two-point attempts outside the paint, and efficient in the basket area, converting all five of his shots in the paint.
“You roll your eyes even a few weeks ago when people were criticizing him,” Spoelstra said. “He’s having a career year efficiency wise. His game has evolved. It really should be celebrated for an athlete willing to [sacrifice].”
Wade made a couple of dazzling moves to the basket — including one that froze Jrue Holiday in his tracks — and attempted just one three-pointer, which he missed.
“He was in a great groove,” James said. “We need that from him. He’s getting healthy.”
Wade has reminded reporters this season that he could score 30 a game if he weren’t happily allowing James to lead the way. But in a season when he’s taking fewer shots and scoring less (20.9 per game) than anytime since his rookie season, nights like Saturday are satisfying.
“Different nights, maybe it’s not the same opportunity,” Wade said. “Guys continued to feed me. I had it going. If a guy is going, we let them go. That’s the mind-set of this team.”
Udonis Haslem said “we were calling out telling Dwyane to shoot. James Jones was yelling ‘ en fuego’ from the bench.”
The Heat is 9-1 when Wade leads Miami in scoring this season, compared with 26-11 for James and 4-2 for Chris Bosh.
James attempted only four shots in the first half and finished 7 for 12 from the field, his 16 points just one more than his season low (at Portland).
But James left an indelible imprint with his rebounding and playmaking. His 10th rebound of the night, 52 seconds into the fourth quarter, gave him a triple-double.
“I was going to be out there until I got it,” he said, joking that he’s had “too many nine-assist, nine-rebound games.”
He made a few jaw-dropping passes — including one no-look flip over his head to Bosh for a layup — and other simpler but decisive ones, including a dart to set up a Ray Allen three that stretched Miami’s lead to 56-47 at halftime.
James said he gets “more pleasure and more of a kick” from passing the ball to teammates than scoring, especially when he’s double-teamed. “I enjoy that more than anything,” he said. “I said from the beginning, I didn’t need to score” for the Heat to win Saturday.
The Heat began the third quarter on a 29-16 burst, culminating in a Norris Cole-to-James alley-oop dunk that elicited a roar from the crowd and pushed the Heat cushion to 22.
Contributions came from elsewhere, too. Mario Chalmers closed with six assists and one turnover on a 14-point night. Bosh had 13 points (but just one rebound) and Allen and Cole added 12 apiece.
The Heat, which has won 12 in a row against Philadelphia, shot 58.4 percent from the field and had 27 assists, compared with six turnovers.
The night started oddly, with Wachovia Center officials needing to rush frantically to change the floor from ice to hardwood because of a 1 p.m. Philadelphia Flyers-Winnipeg Jets game.
The NBA requires teams be given 90 minutes to use the court before a game starts, and the 76ers barely missed that deadline, opening the court 85 minutes before tip-off. “It’s weird, it’s crazy,” Haslem said.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter. The Heat is steamrolling, playing at its highest level “since we won the championship,” Wade said. “Best of the year.”