Dwyane Wade addresses the media at a press conference after Game 4 Monday night
They have all run out of adjectives, really.
“He’s unbelievable,” Goran Dragic said after another Dwyane Wade 30-point masterpiece Monday.
“Dwyane Wade has been spectacular,” Charles Barkley, often begrudging in his praise of Wade, conceded on TNT.
Luol Deng and others settled for more mundane words such as “great” to describe the franchise record-setting 34th 30-point playoff game of Wade’s career, which broke a tie with LeBron James.
Wade’s playoff run feels a little like what we witnessed during some of those Heat playoff appearances in the pre-LeBron era.
And unless multiple teammates erupt Wednesday, Wade likely will need to prop this group on his shoulders and carry the Heat on the road in Game 5 of its second-round series against Toronto, which is tied at two wins apiece. The Heat again will be without injured center Hassan Whiteside.
“I’m as confident as I’ve been all season right now,” Wade said. “Every other day we’re playing and it is very taxing. I love that every time I come out on the court, I feel as good as I did the last game. It allows me to play the game that I love the way that I can. I’m having fun.”
During Game 4, Wade said Chris Bosh “kept saying, ‘If we’re going to go out, I want to go out with you having the ball.’ He kept telling me to be aggressive.”
For perspective on what Wade is accomplishing, consider:
▪ His back-to-back 30-point games (38 in Game 3, 30 in Game 4) marked the first time he has achieved that in a postseason since doing it three games in a row in April 2010.
▪ Prior to Game 3, he had reached 30 points in only one of his previous 63 playoff games (dating to 2012), largely because James and Bosh were often alongside to share the scoring load.
▪ During this postseason run, Wade has passed Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Scottie Pippen, Dirk Nowitzki and Magic Johnson to move into 13th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.
▪ Wade leads the NBA with 99 made field goals this postseason. Kevin Durant was second with 84 entering Tuesday’s Thunder-Spurs game.
▪ Wade this week became the 15th player in NBA history to score 30 or more points in multiple playoff games at 34 or older. That’s more than Barkley, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan (entering Tuesday), Oscar Robertson, Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin McHale and Paul Pierce had in their careers at 34-plus. Michael Jordan has the most all time (22).
▪ Wade’s stats in this series (27.3 points, 49.4 percent shooting) are nearly identical to what he averaged in this same round (against Brooklyn) during the Heat’s 2006 championship run (27.6 points on 48.9 percent shooting).
Heat guard Tyler Johnson remembers watching Wade during his torrid 2006 playoff run as a 14-year old, admiring Wade because “I was always a Dwyane Wade fan when I was younger.”
A decade later, Johnson gets to witness Wade’s artistry up close, and “it seems like every time we get into a situation where it's close or we need a play made or we need a bucket, he makes it. You almost feel it coming. That's what I didn't know until I really got here.”
The roots for this run were planted last summer, when Wade changed trainers (from Tim Grover to Dave Alexander), lost 10 pounds and immersed himself in a grueling conditioning program that focused on strengthening his core. The behind-the-scenes efforts have continued all season, with Erik Spoelstra noting that Wade puts in three hours of work off the court for every hour on the court.
The upshot has been improved durability (Wade missed only seven games because of injury this season) and sustained excellence into May.
“This is probably the hardest he has worked,” Spoelstra said. “He’s getting stronger.”
Moments like Monday make all of that work well worth it.
“I worked my tail off this summer to get my body to the point where I can go play the game that I love at an elite level and not worry about my age or anything,” he said. “Some days I don’t want to do it, but when you have games like I’ve been able to put together, it makes you want to continue to do the things so you can feel as good as possible on the court. I know when I’m healthy that I can play this game as good as anybody. Whenever I’m tired I go back to those moments when I didn’t want to be working out.”
Then Wade delivered the kicker: “Somebody has to pay for it,” he said of all that off-court preparation. “That’s my mentality.”
▪ Whiteside, sidelined with a Grade 1 sprained MCL in his right knee, did not travel to Toronto with the Heat and will remain in Miami for “therapy and rest,” Spoelstra said.