Dwyane Wade made his preseason debut Thursday in the first leg of the NBA’s China Games – one day after introducing his new Chinese basketball shoe in Beijing.
In his first game action since undergoing offseason surgery on his left knee, the Heat’s star guard played 23 minutes and scored five points in a 94-80 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers at MasterCard Center. He was rusty, missing an uncontested dunk in the first half and shooting 2 of 9 from the field.
“That was about where we wanted him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has been progressing each week, adding to his workload. I was encouraged by him getting that many minutes tonight.”
Never mind Wade’s sluggish game. That’s to be expected. Simply seeing Wade on the court provided a spark for both his teammates and the sellout crowd of 17,006. The fans provided the early energy – standing and cheering during the pregame layup lines – and LeBron James did the rest to make it a special night. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
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“This was not a normal preseason atmosphere,” Spoelstra said. “The crowd definitely inspired our guys. They wanted to play well in front of the fans.”
Rookie guard Norris Cole started in place of Mario Chalmers, who has a sore leg. Cole had 11 points. Chris Bosh added 10 points from the center position and provided stout interior defense, especially for a preseason game. The Clippers shot 33 percent (12 of 36) from the field in the first half.
The Heat shot 47.8 percent from three-point range with Ray Allen going 4 of 8 from behind the arc. He finished with 15 points off the bench. Shane Battier was 2 of 2 from three-point range for six points and reserve Rodney Carney went 3 of 4 from long distance and finished with 11 points.
Blake Griffin had 19 points for Los Angeles and Jamal Crawford had 16 points off the bench.
The Heat and Clippers fly to Shanghai on Thursday night to begin preparation for the back half of the China Games. The teams will play again Sunday.