Dwyane Wade wanted to get to the 20,000-point mark early Saturday night.
That way he could not only assure himself he would be out of his recent shooting funk quickly, but also because it would probably help the Miami Heat get a jump on LeBron James and the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wade, who started the night 13 points off the mark, didn’t get to the milestone until he hit a floater in the lane with 10:21 to go in the third quarter. But by then, the 12-time All-Star and the Heat already had what it wanted — a stranglehold on another blowout over the Cavaliers.
Led by Wade’s 24 points — including the 14 he scored in the third quarter, the Heat blew the Cavs out 122-101, denying James, the former leader of Miami’s back-to-back NBA titles in 2013 and 2014, a win at AmericanAirlines Arena yet again.
“If I had a hat on I would have taken it off and waved it around,” said Wade, 34, who was honored twice for the milestone, including with a video tribute following a timeout with 5:21 to play in the third quarter.
“The biggest thing was I wanted to thank my coaches, my training staff, my doctors — everybody. Because it’s no small feat.”
Said coach Erik Spoelstra: “You don’t want to be so jaded in this business that you don’t take time to recognize the special moments. Dwyane’s the face of the franchise. That just shows that he’s done what he’s been able to do at a high level for a long time consistently. It was great to see the reaction from the fans, his teammates. He had a couple special words for the guys inside the locker room. If you put up that many points in this league you have to be very talented, but also have a great work ethic and keep on adapting ahead of the curve.”
James, one of nine active players to score at least 20,000 points in his career, called Wade’s moment “big for the brotherhood.” The blowout win for the Heat, though, “was a little concerning,” he said.
When James and Kyrie Irving went to the bench for good with 3:48 to play in the third quarter, the Heat was up 90-61. Cleveland got 26 points from James on 13 of 20 shooting and 14 points from Irving. Each played 27 minutes.
The Heat, who picked up a game on the Charlotte and moved into sole possession of fourth place after Hornets lost at home to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, had five players score in double figures, shot 54.8 percent from the field and was 11 of 19 from three-point range.
“We’re obviously happy we were able to get this win after the [loss to Charlotte the] other night,” Spoelstra said. “The next three or four weeks are going to be harrowing.”
Goran Dragic had 18 points and 11 assists, Joe Johnson had 18 points and made four three-pointers, Hassan Whiteside had 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks and rookie Josh Richardson had 19 points and four three-pointers of the bench.
After Miami expanded its lead to 40-25 on a Goran Dragic layup with 9:13 left in the half, the Cavs rolled off 11 straight points behind a five-point flurry from Kevin Love, a couple of Irving steals that led to dunks and layups. But Miami answered that 11-0 run with a 13-0 run of its own.
After Whiteside made a tough shot in the paint with three Cavs on him to end Cleveland’s run, Johnson and Richardson hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers. The last came off a steal in which Johnson took the ball from James, dribbled up court and fired a cross court pass to Richardson in the corner with 4:47 to go in the half. It was Richardson’s fourth three-pointer of the half.
“We just came to the huddle the next time out and [Luol Deng] said we can’t have another game like Charlotte, can let them back in it,” Richardson said. “We kept our foot on the gas pedal.”
With the victory, the Heat won the season series against the Cavaliers 2-1. James is now 4-12 all-time against the Heat in Miami.
Wade came into the game having missed 30 of his last 43 shots (30.2 percent) over his three previous games including a last second three-pointer in a loss to the Hornets on Thursday. Saturday, he finished 10 of 17 from the field.
Can he get to 30,000 points?
Said Wade with a smile: “I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say that won’t happen.”