A few weeks ago, critics were still trying to discount Dwyane Wade — not washed up but no longer elite, a sidekick, a fading superstar.
Wade isn’t cooperating with that narrative.
In the last week, Wade has proven without a doubt that he’s still the best guard in the NBA east of Los Angeles. He delivered another reminder on Sunday in the Heat’s 109-105 victory against the up-and-coming Cavaliers.
Wade took over the fourth quarter and shut the door on Cleveland when LeBron James could not.
Wade scored 11 of the Heat’s 14 points during a critical stretch late in the fourth quarter. The final field goal of the run was a driving dunk to give the Heat (40-14) a four-point lead with 24.4 seconds left. Twenty seconds earlier, James missed a wide-open layup that would have put the Heat ahead by two possessions.
Chris Bosh hustled to the loose ball following James’ miss and kept the possession alive. Where James missed the chance to close out his old team, Wade left no room for error on his driving dunk down the middle of the lane. Cavaliers’ defenders Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee doubled James on the decisive pick-and-roll play, giving Wade an easy lane to the basket.
“I came off the screen with LeBron and I think it was a miscommunication because they didn’t know to switch,” Wade said of the Cavaliers’ defenders. “It’s always a good pick-and-roll when me and LeBron run it because twos and threes really don’t cover pick and rolls. They don’t know what to do exactly. So, it’s a great play for us.”
Wade finished with 24 points, scoring 15 in the fourth quarter. His late-game dominance was a positive sign for the surging Heat, which has won 11 consecutive games. Sunday’s victory was the Heat’s fourth in five nights and Wade scored 57 total points during the Heat’s difficult away-home back-to-back. He had 33 points on Saturday in Philadelphia.
“That’s the way he’s going,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s symbolic of how he’s playing the season. He’s getting stronger as the season is going on. He made a lot of good reads down the stretch.”
On a hot streak
Wade is averaging 22.7 points per game during the month of February and is shooting 51 percent on the season. In his last 12 games, he is averaging 6.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Those are all promising numbers and indicators that Wade is peaking at the right time.
Against the Cavs, Wade’s block with 2:53 left was a game-changer. The Cavaliers led 99-98 when shooter C.J. Miles elevated for a 15-foot jumper. The ball never left his hand. Wade blocked it cleanly and moments later delivered a fast-break layup to give the Heat its first lead of the period.
The Heat, which is 24-3 at home this season, led by as a many as 22 points in the third quarter but the feisty youngsters from Cleveland — mostly all byproducts of James’ move to Miami — outscored the defending champions by 30 points over a 17-minute stretch in the second half. Cleveland led 82-81 entering the fourth quarter and pushed that advantage to 92-85 with 6:46 to play.
Irving and Miles combined to score 21 points in the third quarter. Irving finished with 17 points and Miles had 19.
“The game had about seven or eight games within a game,” Spoelstra said. “They kept on coming at us. That’s a team with a lot of young players and a lot of confidence.”
But down the stretch, Irving lost his touch while Wade was warming up. Irving went 1 of 5 in the final period while Wade was 7 of 10 in the fourth quarter. James was 0 of 1 in the fourth but did contribute three free throws.
“When it gets to winning time, and you’re a competitor, you have another gear,” Wade said.
James led all players with 28 points despite going south in the final quarter. He was 10 of 19 from the field with eight assists, three rebounds and a steal. Mario Chalmers played well, scoring 16 points and making 4 of 5 from three-point range. Shane Battier and Ray Allen combined for 25 points and seven three-pointers.
At the beginning of the season, Wade projected that his health from offseason knee surgery would fully return following the All-Star break.
In a matchup against Irving, one of the best young guards in the NBA and a player James has said he wouldn’t mind playing with someday, Wade was in full form.
“He wanted the win, we all wanted the win,” James said of Wade. “We turned it up in the that final period. It was great to see him getting healthy.”