This wasn’t much of a crowd, not with the flashier team in the bigger borough also playing at home, against a compelling opponent. But, at the end, after Dwyane Wade and the Miami had beaten the Nets 102-98, it suddenly seemed that every basketball fan who wasn’t at Madison Square Garden, watching the Knicks face the Thunder, was crowding the visiting tunnel at Barclays Center to cheer Wade off the court.
“Let’s Go Heat! Let’s Go Heat!”
The Heat isn’t going on all cylinders, not quite yet, but at least Miami is moving forward again, closing strong to win a second straight game, this one against a depleted but spirited Brooklyn squad. In danger of losing a fifth straight during a sluggish third quarter in Chicago, Wade, Chris Bosh and Justise Winslow and others showed the sort of resilience, over the course of the next five quarters, that many weren’t sure this group had.
So maybe those people chanting can be proud of this particular team, after all.
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“These are two quality wins in less than 30 hours,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You just want to keep on building and show that type of toughness on the road. It’s never easy, no matter what. And this one came quick, after last night.”
The Heat didn’t get to its hotel until close to sunrise, and Wade and others didn’t get much sleep.
“OK, I get to drink some water, eat and it’s game time,” Wade said. “It was like this, man.”
The game didn’t figure to be a snap, not after the Nets just beat the Thunder, and not after the Heat didn’t get any of its sidelined players, not Hassan Whiteside, not Josh McRoberts and not Goran Dragic, back, even as much as Dragic protested with the training staff to play.
So it would again be on Wade and Bosh to carry the offense, and they did throughout, each finishing with 27 points. And eventually, after allowing the Nets to score 57 in the first half, the defense stiffened enough, especially when it mattered, whether it was Wade scrambling out to the three-point line to close out on Heat-killer Wayne Ellington, or Luol Deng swiping a Joe Johnson pass, or Beno Udrih taking a charge.
Those stops gave Wade and Bosh enough opportunities, and they combined for 18 of their points in the fourth quarter, some of their own creation, and some on smart sets, such as Wade’s and-1 off a Bosh screen and a slick Deng pass.
Wade even reached back in his “bag of tricks” again, continuing a trend that began in this building earlier in the season.
He has now had three strong games in succession.
“This is me playing healthy,” Wade said. “Every time I do something, I can hit a free throw, and it’s vintage nowadays.”
“But this is who I am in this 2015-2016 season,” Wade said. “It’s not every night. But for the majority, I’m trying to make sure I’ll be there for my team.”
And when he spoke of “reaching deep into the bag” to get the win, he wasn’t referring to his array of trick shots. It was about reaching in for some resilience.
So was Bosh.
“It’s gonna happen, it happens to everybody in the league, you’re gonna have injuries, things aren’t gonna go your way, you’re gonna deal with the road,” Bosh said. “It’s all about how you respond. It’s not so much what happens. Because sometimes you’re gonna lose four in a row, especially when you have half your team out. It’s probably gonna happen. But it’s always just about taking a lick. Everybody’s gonna get punched in the face.”
The Heat did.
Which made it even better to face those cheers.