Dwyane Wade poked into the Heat’s training room at the team hotel on Saturday, and he knew he might need to put his own issues aside.
“You need to be able to give what you can give,” Wade determined.
And so he did Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, even with two sore shoulders — at the end of the Heat’s six-game road trip — on his 34th birthday. He gave plenty, with 18 of his 22 points before halftime, but his teammates gave too little, and the Thunder gave Miami a throttling that qualified as the Heat’s largest defeat of the season, 99-74.
“We needed to be able to show stability in the midst of a storm,”
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coach Erik Spoelstra said.
That storm, in this single game, came in the third quarter, in which Oklahoma City outscored Miami 31-16, a 24-16 edge in the fourth quarter becoming a mere formality.
But there’s a larger and even more dangerous storm to speak of now, a storm that has this team teetering, now that it’s been stripped of its early-season advantages — whether a friendly home-tilted schedule or the relative health of key players.
Now, after a 2-4 road trip through the West, Miami plays just one game at home, against a Milwaukee squad that typically gives it trouble, before heading out for another five-game trip, starting with three games against potential Eastern Conference playoff teams.
“Thirty-six hours in Miami,” said Chris Bosh, who struggled to get space against the Thunder’s active, long-armed front line. “It will be awesome. With a game in between. Then we’ll be right back out, for fun and relaxation. That’s the NBA. It’s better than being in the hospital. So considering the alternative, it’s not that bad.”
It’s not, of course, not when compared to what Bosh endured last season, missing the last two months after a blood clot was discovered in this lung. But that should serve as some context now. Yes, the Heat is dealing with many injuries now — in the second half, after Gerald Green tweaked his knee, Spoelstra was down to nine healthy players.
Yet Bosh has still played in every game. And Wade has played in all but two.
And yet, the record, at the halfway point, is now just 23-18, a 46-win pace.
In fact, in every way, the Heat has received more than expected from Wade this season, in terms of availability and somewhat in terms of production. After missing 25 percent of the games over the past four seasons, Wade got leaner in order to digest a fuller helping of the schedule — and, now, halfway through the season, he’s on pace to play 78 games, his most since 2008-09. (And one of his two missed games was due to his son’s injury, not his own.)
He’s also been uncommonly productive for a player at his advanced NBA age. He entered Sunday’s game with the 26th-highest scoring average for a season in which a player turns 34, an average he matched in the first half alone Sunday.
So, in that sense, Sunday’s loss was a snapshot of the larger struggle the Heat season has become. Miami got more out of Wade than anticipated, as he made 8 of 11 shots in the first half, including 6 of 8 inside the paint. Then he made his first jumpshot of the second half.
And, still, Miami got too little out of the collective for it to matter. Hassan Whiteside was 7 of 9, even making a couple of long jumpshots. Tyler Johnson, filling in for the sidelined Goran Dragic and Beno Udrih, was 7 of 12.
But, outside of that trio, the Heat shot 7 of 36. Oklahoma City converted 21 Heat turnovers into 20 points, as Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 24 in total. Russell Westbrook finished with a triple-double (15 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists).
It was a second loss in the four times Wade has played on his birthday. He had some discomfort in the left shoulder, tugging at it after a missed shot and turnover in the second half, before he finally sat late. In the end, even with the loss, he declared it a positive day.
“I don’t complain much,” Wade said. “I’m very blessed. I woke up to a million messages today. I got a lot of love on social media. I even got a chant out there from the OKC fans, ‘Happy Birthday.’ That was cool. So much appreciated for everyone sending that love and support on this day.”
He just needed more support on the court.