Dwyane Wade was asked the other day when was the last time he felt butterflies in a playoff game. He mentioned Game 4 of the 2013 NBA Finals in San Antonio, which the Heat won to even the series at two en route to Wade’s third championship.
“Always trying to stay [on an] even keel in those moments,” he said.
No Heat player has exuded more coolness, more nerves of steel under pressure than Wade, and his first two games of this 2016 postseason — although devoid of any late-game drama — combined high efficiency with highlight-reel stuff.
Wade hit an array of difficult jumpers, electrified the crowd by blocking a Kemba Walker jump shot and once again dominated his matchup with Courtney Lee. Wade has had life and lift in his legs, looking active, spry and explosive.
The performance was an aesthetic and statistical success: 28 points, 11 for 22 shooting from the field and 6 for 7 from the line, eight assists, three rebounds, two steals and the block on Walker, which gave him 154 blocks in 154 playoff games, second all-time among NBA guards behind Michael Jordan, who had 158 in 179 games.
“Wade was unbelievable,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “He was hitting his jumper.”
And Wade — who has scored at least 20 points for the 100th time in 154 Heat playoff games — was big when the game became uncomfortably close late.
He drove to the basket, drew a foul and hit two free throws to push the Heat’s lead to 10 with 3:42 left, then made a dashing spin move on Lee for a jumper to make it a nine-point game with 2:45 to go. Then he scored in transition, off a Justise Winslow pass, to push the margin to double figures with 1:37 to go.
Wade’s midrange game hadn’t been quite as effective this season, and his overall 45.6 shooting percentage was a career low, well below his 54.5 two years ago and his 48.8 career mark. Wade often has finished as the NBA’s highest-percentage shooting guard in his career but slid to seventh this season, behind J.J. Redick, Klay Thompson, Gary Harris, Evan Fournier, Andrew Wiggins and Alan Crabbe.
He also finished seventh among shooting guards in scoring average at 19.0.
His shooting accuracy slipped to 34.3 percent from 10 to 16 feet this season and 38.7 percent from 16 feet to the three-point range, according to probasketballreference.com.
But Wade’s entire offensive game has flourished in this series, his jumper smooth and silky. On Tuesday, he hit five jumpers of at least 12 feet, as well as several shots closer to the rim, including a snazzy finger roll.
He scored 15 in the first half, then delivered again late. He has 15 assists, just three turnovers, in this series.
The extra rest couldn’t have hurt Wade. He had two days rest between Games 1 and 2 and was at his best statistically this season with two days’ rest, averaging 21.8 points and 48.7 percent shooting.
There will be one day’s rest between games starting after Game 3, and for at least much of the next round, if the Heat advances. With one day of rest, Wade was also very good this season, averaging 18.7 points and 47.2 percent shooting.
But Wade shot only 40 percent this season on the second night of back-to-back sets (13 games), and there shouldn’t be any of those in the postseason.