Dwyane Wade was angry Wednesday night. He was trying to play it cool but you could almost see the steam coming out of his ears.
Not only had the Miami Heat lost Game 5 at home to the Charlotte Hornets 90-88 in the jumbled final minutes to fall behind 3-2 in their first-round playoff series, but Wade appeared to be fouled on what would have been the tying layup with 4.5 seconds left.
After the game, he said it was “pointless” to revisit the officials’ call and non-calls because “it ain’t going to change anything.”
He’s right. Excuses waste energy and the Heat will need every watt it can muster in Charlotte’s “Hive” on Friday.
Wade will have to be vintage D-Wade and Hassan Whiteside will need a dominant performance if the Heat is to survive and return to Miami for Game 7.
Wade, 7-7 in elimination games in his 13-year Heat career, won’t have LeBron James and Chris Bosh to rely upon as he did in Boston in 2012 when the Heat came back from a 3-2 deficit. He can’t exactly count on Goran Dragic, Luol Deng or Joe Johnson as his right-hand man based on their past three games. He may very well have to lean on the young, combustible Whiteside to rescue the Heat from this precarious situation.
“It is very challenging to go on the road with a team that hasn’t won too much on the road and figure out a way to get a win,” Wade said. “I don’t know where this team is at. This is the first time we’re going through this together.”
Wade seemed serene and focused Thursday. He had a chance to “get it all out” of his system the night before. First, there was what he called the “interesting” ride home with wife Gabrielle Union, during which they both vented.
“My wife is very expressive. She has a voice and she uses it,” Wade said — during games from her seat, too. Both members of the couple are competitive by nature.
At home, more venting and regretting and second-guessing of some of his questionable decisions at the end.
“She went to sleep on me while I was still watching the game. I was looking for that one thing that could change it. We’re that close,” Wade said of the two teams, holding thumb and forefinger one inch apart.
“I found myself rewinding plays over and over again. I felt like Coach [Pat] Riley.”
After a long night, he turned the page. This is Wade the consummate pro, the leader who can put disappointment on the shelf and summon his compartmentalization skills at critical junctures.
“You come in the next day and learn from the mistakes you made and move on mentally,” he said. “The frustration has to remove from your body and mind as you get closer to gametime. Anger in the right way can be used.”
Wade said he will “pull from” the big moments of past playoffs. He’s got an entire library of references. But his teammates “who have never been in it before don’t have that to pull from.
“That’s what I bring: Confidence.”
He must impart that confidence, will and grace under pressure to Whiteside. Friday’s game is a monumental opportunity for Whiteside to prove that he deserves the faith the Heat has placed in him, that he deserves that $23 million maximum contract, that all the doubts about his temperamental personality early in his nomadic career have been assuaged, that he has arrived as a true NBA center.
Wade has to be clutch. Whiteside has to be better.
Whiteside is averaging 14 points, 12.2 rebounds and three blocks in the series but he has yet to show what a force he can be and how he can alter the flow of a game. The Hornets have taken control because they have brilliantly reverted to old-school, drive-the-lane, in-your-face basketball. They made an average of 10.6 three-pointers during the regular season. It’s 5.6 against Miami.
Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin are giving the Heat fits with squirmy moves off pick-and-rolls. Charlotte’s big men, including the wily Al Jefferson are attacking Whiteside.
“They’re big on taking away the paint at the center position,” Whiteside said. “It’s pretty weird the way they play defense. When I roll, four or five guys are around me so it’s hard to get the ball.”
Whiteside is playing well. He recorded his fourth double-double of the series and Miami outscored Charlotte inside. But he needs a monster game. He needs to take control of his territory.
He claims he’s getting manhandled and not getting three-second calls.
“On every possession I’m counting for the ref and I got up to six one time,” he said. “It’s like preschool — we’re counting together. The refs say he’s moving and I say, yeah, he’s moving in the paint.”
Whiteside has got to swat off the swarm.
Wade has to levitate to the occasion.
Together, they can salvage a Game 7.