Near the end of the first half of the Miami Heat’s crucial 101-93 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of their second round series on Sunday afternoon, Dwyane Wade dribbled the ball around the three-point line, with nowhere to go. He couldn’t shake Pacers forward Paul George, and the sequence symbolized Wade’s performance up to that point: he looked lethargic, inefficient, lost.
Coming off a Game 3 outing in which he scored five points on 2 for 13 shooting in a Miami loss – Wade reportedly had fluid drained out of his left knee prior to that game – Wade’s nightmare continued in the first half on Sunday. He was 1-8 from the field. The Heat had trailed by double-digits.
Even since Wade led the Heat to the 2006 NBA championship, Wade could do no wrong in Miami. Among NBA fans, he had a good-guy reputation; you didn’t hate the Heat because of Wade. He wasn’t the one making the Decision.
But lately, Wade’s has been the subject of a bit of backlash. “Dywane Wade is more of a jerk than LeBron James,” writes one blogger. “Gotta say, I never thought I’d write those words.” Wade has been committing hard fouls; in Game 2 against the Pacers, for example, a frustrated Wade shoved Indiana point guard Darren Collision on a fast break, after Wade missed a shot – and didn’t receive a foul call – on the other end.
Remember when Wade clobbered Kobe Bryant in the All-Star game, breaking his nose? Wade didn’t even walk over to Bryant to check if he was OK.
Last month, Wade spouted off about the Olympics, saying that NBA players should be compensated for their service. He backtracked, but those comments endeared him to no one. And in Game 3 of the Pacers series on Thursday, Wade got into a shouting match with coach Eric Spoelstra on the sidelines.
What’s gotten into this guy? That thought was on the mind of millions as Wade dribbled the ball against George. Seemingly out of options, Wade finally stepped back behind the three-point line, and fired a shot. Ack, there he goes again, forcing another one.
But this shot fell. And Wade became unleashed.
Before Wade hit this three-pointer, he may have been at the lowest moment of his NBA career. After he made it, he may have saved himself, and the Miami Heat’s season. Wade went on to finish with 30 points in Miami’s Game 4 road victory, which evened the series at 2-2. If Miami lost that game, the Heat might have been toast. With Wade playing like a scrub, and Chris Bosh out with an abdominal strain, Miami had little hope.
Wade had plenty of help from his buddy LeBron James: James scored 40 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out 9 assists against Indiana. Soon after Wade hit that three, James hit Wade with a beautiful backdoor pass; Wade finished it with a baseline dunk, which also helped charge him up. James connected with Wade on a pretty lob pass early in the second half too. When James and Wade play off each other like they did on Sunday, they raise basketball to a level we rarely see.
The anti-Wade sentiment felt forced, anyway. It’s almost as if America must display a certain amount of Heat hatred, and if we can’t direct it at LeBron, who’s been playing great, and if Bosh is out, we have to target Wade. Sure, the fouls are crude. But on another team, would Wade just be labeled a hard-nosed, physical player? He did not try to break Bryant’s nose, and in the glorified pickup atmosphere of the All-Star game, it was refreshing to see some competitive flair.
And the Spoelstra episode was blown way out of proportion. Coaches and players bite at each other all the time. Since when is Spoelstra sacrosanct, and can’t be questioned?
On Sunday, Wade responded to his critics, in full. Now, don’t be surprised if Miami just marches to the Finals.