Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade’s Big Night

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade was in the midst of a rough stretch while the Heat, in general, were thriving spectacularly.  Without the presence of forward Chris Bosh, they raced out to a 10-5 record post-All-Star break, thanks to an improved pace and suddenly lethal offense, Wade was struggling to find his shooting stroke.

To be fair to Wade, he had been trying to adjust to Miami’s pace while dealing with some nagging injuries. He missed three of Miami’s first 15 games after the break, and you can see that, even with solid base averages, the efficiency was all over the place.

Through Wade’s first four games after the break, he averaged 23.3 points on 38.8 percent shooting. During his next four, he averaged 22.3 points on 45.9 percent shooting. Over his last four, as he tried to work himself back after a deep thigh bruise, he averaged 14.3 points on 33.3 percent shooting.

This made the matchup with Cleveland on Saturday night even more interesting. It was the new-look Heat’s first crack at the Cavs, and Miami would need a big night from Wade to be able to compete. On a personal note, Wade was only 13 points away from becoming the 41st player in NBA history, and eighth active one, to reach 20,000 career points.

Suffice to say, Wade came to play:

The Heat dismantled the Cavs, 122-101, but the real story was Wade’s play. He carved the Cavs up inside and out showing off his usual array of moves, finishing with an efficient 24 points (10-17 FG), his fifth game shooting better than 50 percent from the field since the All-Star break.

He knocked down pull-up jumpers, finished in transition, splashed in a couple of floaters, did a little bit of work on the block, and still found ways to get other guys involved with his passing, finishing the game with four assists.

He especially helped blow the game open in the third quarter, where he scored 14 of his 24 points, including the floater that put him into the 20K Points Club:

Although injuries and a role change during the Big Three Era prevented Wade from reaching 20,000 career points sooner, he is still sharing great company, and should be recognized as one of the most underrated offensive players the league has seen. Among the 41 players with at least 20,000 points, Wade ranks 18th in points per game (23.7) and true shooting percentage (56.2%), seventh in assists per game (5.8) and PER (24.7), and 17th in win shares per 48 minutes (.179).

It has been yet another All-Star season for Wade, who, at age 34, is averaging 19 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds. The list of players to average at least 19-4-4 for a season at 34 or older is a short one featuring some names you may have heard of before: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant, and Jerry West.

Wade’s combination of scoring, playmaking, and efficiency is and always has been unique. He had that on full display Saturday night, and the Heat can only hope that his performance was a glimpse of things to come — and the end of his recent cold streak.

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