The verdict was still out on Dwyane Wade’s knee through the first half. Then, in an instant, he put all minds at ease.
Wade’s driving dunks in the third quarter announced his successful return from missing consecutive games because of knee soreness, and the plays were the most significant development on a night the Heat came from behind to defeat Orlando 101-99. The Heat defeated the Magic by 28 points on Wednesday.
Wade went 1 of 6 from the field in the first half and appeared to favor his right knee on a few plays.
The poor start was enough to raise concerns, considering Wade hadn’t played in a week. Saturday was the Wade’s first action since checking himself out of a game in Charlotte because of soreness in his knee.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
But Wade returned to the court with new purpose in the third quarter and helped the Heat come back from a 16-point deficit.
The Heat trailed 55-39 at halftime, but Wade’s driving dunk with 8:54 left in the third quarter cut the Magic’s lead to 55-49. Wade penetrated through the heart of the Magic’s defense and finished easily with an emphatic one-handed dunk.
Minutes later, Wade delivered a near carbon copy of the first dunk.
This time, his one-handed flush through the lane cut the Magic’s lead to single digits. Wade went 4 of 5 in the third quarter for nine points, and the Heat outscored the Magic 32-22.
The offensive surge after such a sluggish start set the stage for an exciting finish.
The Heat trailed 77-71 to begin the final period and took its first lead with 4:33 left in the game on a 17-footer by Chris Bosh. Miami then led by four points with 1:44 remaining after a 20-footer by Bosh, but the Magic tied the score after Wade missed 1 of 2 free throws and Orlando forward Glen Davis converted a difficult three-point play.
With the Magic trailing by three points with 40 seconds to go, Davis pumped-faked past Wade at the top of the perimeter and then drew contact on Bosh under the basket.
Davis’ layup and free throw tied the game at 99-99 with 37 seconds left and set the stage for some late-game heroics by LeBron James.
James drilled a 15-foot jumper with 15.1 seconds left to give the Heat a 101-99 lead and, after a timeout, the Magic missed two shots to tie it. Arron Afflalo missed a driving layup under heavy duress, but rookie Victor Oladipo came down with the offensive rebound.
He then missed a wide-open baseline jumper from seven feet at the buzzer.
Wade finished with 27 points, which was two points off his high for the season. He had 19 points in the second half and was 9 of 16 from the field overall.
James had 22 points after scoring just three points in the first half.
The Heat’s 39 points in the game’s first 24 minutes was a season low in scoring for a half. Miami shot 41.5 percent from the field in the first half.
Bosh had 16 points and six rebounds, and Michael Beasley went 4 of 4 from the field in the first half for nine points when no one else in red jerseys could make a basket.
The Heat wore limited edition “red-zone” jerseys but started the game anything but red-hot.
The Heat has won six in a row since losing to the Celtics at the buzzer. Miami was outrebounded 41-33 but committed just 12 turnovers.
Afflalo led Magic (4-8) starters with 18 points and seven rebounds, and Oladipo had 17 points and seven rebounds. Center Nikola Vucevic had 11 points and nine rebounds. Davis had 20 points off the bench.
Orlando was 9 of 13 from three-point range in the first half but finished the game 10 of 23 from distance.