If you haven’t been paying attention lately, Dwyane Wade has been quietly moving up some impressive statistical lists in the playoffs.
Last week against the Charlotte Hornets, he passed Michael Jordan for the most career blocks by a guard in the playoffs — with his Airness in attendance. On Tuesday, Wade won his 100th career playoff game, something only 21 other greats have done.
Entering Game 2 on Thursday night against the Raptors, the next achievements on Wade’s playoff bucket list included needing only five points to pass Scottie Pippen for 15th place in scoring and 11 minutes to pass Horace Grant (6,172 minutes) for 22nd place in minutes played.
“How it all shakes out in the end will all be cool one day to look at,” said Wade, who grew up in Chicago a fan of those great Bulls teams. “Just not right now.”
Not at 34. Not with father time ticking. Not with one his best friends in Chris Bosh now officially sidelined for the rest of these playoffs and in his ear telling him how important it is to seize the moment. Not with so much uncertainty with this Heat roster after this season.
And certainly not with LeBron James two wins away from fulfilling his side of the playoff bracket and setting the stage for an epic showdown and reunion with the Heat.
That’s why now Wade, who spent all season preserving his body, is willing to play with reckless abandon. He did it Tuesday in overtime of Game 1, when even after bruising his left knee at the end of regulation he still dove for a loose basketball, swiping it away from DeMar DeRozan and then dribbling the length of the court for the game-clinching layup.
The pain he was in didn’t matter. Winning was all that did.
“In the moments it really matters you’ve got to go for it,” Wade said. “Then you worry about [the pain] the next day. That’s what guys have to do. That’s what everybody on our team has to do to try to secure a win and try to win a ballgame. That’s what people follow — a leader. They see you doing whatever it takes to help your team win. It makes your team do the same thing. That’s why we got treatments and some of the best trainers in the world.
“I’ll jump from the top of the stands at the end of a game for a loose ball if I could. At that moment, it’s about getting a win, man.”
Everyone has seen the shots Wade has made late in games to lift the Heat in these playoffs.
Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas praised Wade’s leadership Tuesday and TNT analyst Kenny Smith recently called Wade one of the best aging stars in the league. LeBron James said he watched when Wade put on an offensive show late in Game 6 in Charlotte — swishing three-pointers and an impossible turnaround fadeaway jumper late — with the Heat facing elimination and needing Wade to save them.
“Anytime one of my best friends is able to go out there and perform the way he performs, it’s definitely motivating,” James said told reporters in Cleveland on Wednesday. “I was looking forward to Game 1 [in Toronto] after watching him in Game 6, you know, the way he was able to close that game out.”
Wade is averaging 19.6 points per game and shooting 46.7 percent in the playoffs.
But he’s been much more than a scorer. He’s been an all-around weapon — one of six players in the playoffs averaging at least 19 points, four rebounds and four assists (James, Chris Paul, James Harden, Paul George and Russell Westbrook are the others).
Wade’s defense has also improved. His defensive rating is down from 105.3 in the regular season to 97.5 (that’s points allowed per 100 possessions while he’s on the court).
“You can lock in a little bit more,” Wade said of his more intense mentality on defense in the playoffs. “When you’re locked into a seven-game series you can learn your opponents a little more. These mean a lot more — every possession in the playoffs — way more than the regular season.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when it comes to the playoffs Wade simply has an “uncommon will to win.”
“That means all across the board,” Spoelstra said. “It could be the defensive dive on the floor. It could be pursuit and chasing a three-point shooter off the line. It can be the game-saving block at the rim. It could be spread pick-and-rolls he’s done his entire career. Or it can be a three-point shot at the buzzer. But he understands winning moments and what’s called for in those moments.
“He was not involved in that play [against DeRozan]. He made himself involved in that defensive play that sealed the game and dove on the floor. But that’s what winning players do. It’s not about touches. It’s not about shots. It’s not about only the things that show up on the highlights. It’s the intangible winning plays that carry him. And Dwyane probably made 10 of those in the last two, three minutes of regulation and overtime [Tuesday].”