Dwyane Wade’s ailing right knee and sore right forearm could keep him out of the Heat’s lineup for Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wade did not participate in the Heat’s full-court practice drills on Saturday at Marquette and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called Wade’s status day-to-day. The Heat plays the Bucks at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, meaning Wade will not have a full day to receive treatment on his knee before tipoff. Spoelstra said Wade “is improving” and that the Heat’s training staff will evaluate his injuries before game time and then make a decision.
While Spoelstra emphasized Wade would do everything in his power to play, all signs pointed to Wade sitting out Game 4 of the first-round playoff series. The Heat leads the series 3-0 and can sweep the Bucks with a victory.
LeBron James indicated after practice that rest might be the best thing for Wade, who has been troubled by a sore knee for at least the last month. Wade reinjured his knee in the first half on Thursday in Game 3 and also aggravated his right forearm during a hard fall.
“He has to do what’s best for him and then what’s best for the team,” James said. “For him, he’s a competitor, he wants to be out there, but you don’t put injuries in front of anything and if you’re hurting, and you’re not capable of doing the things that you need to do to help the team win, then you shouldn’t risk it.”
Wade said in a statement that he was “day to day” and would receive treatment “around the clock” in the hopes of playing on Sunday.
Wade went 1-of-12 shooting in Game 3 and was limited to four points. It was just the third time in his career to score fewer than 10 points in a playoff game. While Wade’s shot was off, he found other ways contribute, totaling 11 assists and nine rebounds.
Heat reserve Mike Miller would likely start on Sunday if Wade can’t play. Miller has played a total of two minutes in the playoff series but started the final 13 games of the regular season and performed well. Miller averaged 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists during that stretch while shooting 48.6 percent from three-point range.
The Heat is 15-2 this season with Miller in the starting lineup.
“Our team is built with a lot of depth and guys can always have a breakout game,” James said.
Wade’s primary backup, Ray Allen, led the Heat with 23 points in Game 3, going 5 of 8 from three-point range. Allen has started 120 of his 131 career postseason games, but Spoelstra is expected to keep the 17-year veteran in a reserve role regardless of Wade’s status.
With an average of 40.7 points per game, the Heat’s bench has been a key to the series for the Heat. Spoelstra’s second unit of Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Shane Battier have logged 39 minutes and 47 seconds of court time together in the series with prorated points advantage of plus-44.5 per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.com.
With Wade nursing a collection of injuries, closing out the series in four games is paramount for Spoelstra, who reminded his team on Saturday it has been in the position to sweep first-round playoff series in 2011 and 2012 only to lose Game 4 each year.
With a sweep on Sunday, Wade would have at least six days to rest before the Eastern Conference semifinals began.
“We’ve never had an opportunity with this group to close out a series … and that was our concentration and emphasis today,” Spoelstra said. “It’s 24 hours to do what we have to do and that’s why we don’t want to short quick any of the preparation.”
The Heat has led comfortably in the fourth quarters of each game against the Bucks, which has allowed the Wade, James and Chris Bosh to play fewer minutes than in first-round series in years past. In 2011 against Philadelphia, James averaged 42.4 minutes per game over five games. Against Milwaukee, he has averaged just over 35.3 minutes per game.
“It’s their last stand,” Spoelstra said of the Bucks. “We know what that can be like. For the last two years we have lost a game in this situation, so hopefully we can learn from that and find a way to close it out. These are tough games to close.”
Bosh (sore leg) did not participate in full-court drills on Saturday but is expected to start on Sunday.
In Game 3, Bosh had 16 points and 14 rebounds in 34 minutes.
“In [playoff] games, the intensity level goes up a little bit and if you ever have a time to rest a little bit, I always take advantage of that, but I’ll be ready tomorrow,” Bosh said.