The landing was far from perfect, but the take off and flight were things of beauty.
Dwyane Wade might not soar as high or as often as he used to. But even at 34, he can still dunk with authority.
His right-handed jam on a fastbreak over Ish Smith with 3:21 to remaining Sunday night not only brought the crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena roaring to its feet, it helped the Heat surge past the pesky Philadelphia 76ers, 103-98, and to a fifth consecutive victory.
It’s the first time since LeBron James returned to Cleveland in the summer of 2014 that the Heat has won five games in a row.
“My wrist hurts, so that means I got over the rim a little bit, it wasn’t a finger-tip dunk,” said Wade, who scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter after entering with 7:51 to play and the Heat trailing. “It felt good. My legs were heavy today. But it was good to have explosion at the end.”
The Heat (37-26) needed the boost. Despite coming in with the worst record in the league, the 76ers (8-55) led the Heat 79-73 with 9:45 left.
But back-to-back three-pointers by rookies Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow tied it before Wade came off the bench and teamed with Goran Dragic (23 points, eight assists) and Hassan Whiteside (14 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks) to lift the Heat at the end.
Whiteside started the fastbreak — which culminated when Dragic fed Wade for the emphatic dunk on a 2-on-1 break— when he blocked Robert Covington’s drive to the rim. Wade’s dunk, which ended with him and Dragic colliding near the basket, gave the Heat a 91-87 lead.
“It was just bodies flying around,” Dragic said of the collision. “But great play by D-Wade. He’s still got the hops. I cannot do that. But I know he’s going to be there to finish that.”
Before the Heat took the lead on a Luol Deng layup with 3:52 to play, there were 12 ties and 12 lead changes throughout the game. The Heat, which won by 10 in Philadelphia on Friday, never led by more than eight points on Sunday.
“It was a great defensive play,” Wade said of Whiteside’s block.
“He is playing amazing basketball. I think for this team he has been our best player since the All-Star break. A lot of credit goes to him for us even being in this position where we have won however many we have won since the All-Star break.”
That would be 8 of 10 for the Heat, which will have two days off before visiting Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Of the Heat’s 19 remaining games, 10 are against teams over .500, including two back to back on the road later this week in Chicago (31-30) and Toronto (41-19).
“I don’t want the narrative to be that we just half-stepped through this game and turned it on at the end,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That would be a disservice to Philly. It’s tough to beat that team two times in a row. I thought they played very good basketball both games.”
Ish Smith’s three-point buzzer-beater gave Philadelphia a 49-47 lead at the break. The Sixers shot just 40.4 percent over the first two quarters but made the most of eight offensive rebounds, cashing in 12 second-chance points.
Joe Johnson led the Heat with 14 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting. He didn’t score in the second half.
Whiteside had four first-quarter blocks, enough to move him past Chris Bosh (332 blocks) and into sixth place all-time in franchise history with 333 blocks. Next on the list: Shaquille O’Neal (384).
LATEST ON BOSH
Bosh missed his 10th consecutive game since the All-Star break and the Heat remained mum on his status.
On Saturday, Bosh told a fan on Twitter he’s “Feeling good! Feeling great!” In a separate tweet, he said he had a good workout on Saturday.
Bosh was initially ruled out of the All-Star Game with a calf strain, but upon his return home to South Florida it was learned and widely reported that he was back on blood- thinning medication for a clot in his calf. Neither the Heat nor Bosh have acknowledged those reports.
Dragic said he saw Bosh at the arena Sunday morning. Spoelstra said Bosh’s ongoing workouts at the arena “are not necessarily with the team,” but with the staff.
“He is staying engaged, and he’s is in great sprits,” Spoelstra said pregame. “I talk to CB all the time, virtually every day.”
Heat president Pat Riley said last month Bosh was “continuing to explore health options.”
It’s unclear if Bosh is still on blood thinners, but if he started medication for a clot, experts have said he would have to stay away from physical contact and remain on medication for three to six months.