Commentary

Wade's hot hand keeps Heat alive

Updated: April 25, 2010, 9:52 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

Dwayne WadeJesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith their season on the line, the Heat turned to Dwyane Wade (46 points) to get past the Celtics.

MIAMI -- Memo to Doc Rivers: If you see Dwyane Wade screaming at his right hand again, start double-teaming him at midcourt immediately. Don't do what you did Sunday and let that hot hand do any further damage.

It was two minutes and 47 seconds into the fourth quarter when Wade ran downcourt with the five fingers on his hand fully extended, just after he had knocked down a 3-pointer to give him 11 points in the quarter as part of a 14-3 burst that turned a six-point deficit into a five-point lead.

He was staring at that hand, screaming at that hand, in language Wade himself deemed too inappropriate to be repeated verbatim.

"I was telling him he was hot, we were having a conversation about that," Wade said, giving a G-rated recounting of the discussion between his mouth and the magical appendage that kept the Miami Heat's season from ending Sunday in a 101-92 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their first-round series.

Wade went on to score six more points to put the Heat ahead 93-82 with 6:12 left before Rivers changed his defensive strategy and had a second defender meet Wade just past midcourt, forcing him to pass the ball and let one of his teammates initiate the offense.

The strategy worked, too, with Boston pulling back within four points with 2:36 remaining before the Celtics started gagging, Ray Allen missing three consecutive free throws, Kevin Garnett bricking a pair and Rajon Rondo missing one of those short runners that have become part of the bread and butter of his offensive game.

Those misses allowed the Heat to pull away from the Celtics for good in the final two minutes, extending their season for at least another game and giving everyone another chance to witness whatever magic Wade might still have in store when the series returns to Boston for Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Truth be told, it'll be near impossible to top what Wade did in this one.

But with superstars, you never know.

"We don't take Dwyane for granted, that greatness. He has another gear and another depth to reach into to carry a team on his back. And you see it, and you start to believe. When his back is against the wall, it is an utter defiance," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

There really aren't enough superlatives, accolades or adjectives to adequately describe how Wade swiftly and thoroughly took this game over and saved the Heat from the ignominy of being swept out of the playoffs.

It started right from the get-go, Wade scoring 14 points in the first quarter as the Heat jumped to an early 17-point lead, and then it got even better at the start of the fourth after Boston had wiped out every single point of that deficit, seized the momentum and appeared poised to finish off the kill heading into the final 12 minutes with that six-point lead.

But then, Wade's finale began.

He made an 18-footer and a pair of 3-pointers in the first 84 seconds of the quarter, repeatedly dribbling or stepping to his left before pulling up and/or falling back as he buried those three jumpers.

A three by Mario Chalmers gave the Heat back the lead for good 82-80, and the conversation between Wade and his hand happened one possession later, after Joel Anthony grabbed an offensive rebound and fired it out to Wade at the 3-point line.

"Step-in 3s are a shot we'd usually give him because he's known for his drives and his midrange," Paul Pierce said. "On a normal day those are shots you want him to take, but it wasn't a normal day."

No, indeed it was not.

Normal days do not include the spectacle of a 46-point outburst amid the specter, however remote, of this possibly being Wade's final game in a Miami uniform. Wade plans to opt out of his contract and become a free agent, and most expect him to re-sign with the Heat as the franchise uses its $24 million of additional salary-cap space to reload its roster. (Could you imagine if the Cavs were down 3-0 and playing at home in LeBron James' out-out year? It'd be like a funeral with 20,562 mourners and a live corpse).

But in Wade's case, even team owner Micky Arison has a smidgen of doubt in his mind (he said he was 99 percent certain Wade will stay in Miami), and no one in the NBA can say with any degree of absolute certainty how things are going to shake out once July 1 rolls around. There is still too much that can happen, on and off the court, between now and then that could change the entire landscape.

That level of uncertainty served to add to the electricity that Wade generated at the beginning and again at the end, with two coast-to-coast drives ending in rim-rattling dunks (one on a reverse that he said he hadn't executed since high school) helping fill the downtime in between.

"What we revealed was a real defiance and stubbornness. They had been knocking us down, and today was only about getting up. And Dwyane has the most flagrant defiance and stubbornness," Spoelstra said. "People were saying we would quit, but Dwyane led the way by revealing his character and what he is made of.

"They say adversity builds character. We say adversity defines character. Now, it's a one-game thing, and we've got to fight and scrap and continue to reveal our character."

Wade echoed his coach's statement.

"I know a lot of people expected us to roll over, and that weighed heavily on my mind. We didn't break, even when they took the lead, and that was the turning point and what made this different from every other game," Wade said. "I'm sure they feel going back home they'll be fine."

And maybe the Celtics will be.

But they'll also remember that they are up against a uniquely talented individual, a man who can turn around a game in an instant and summon a win almost single-handedly, as he did by scoring those 19 fourth-quarter points.

So don't be surprised if that midcourt double-teaming defense is summoned by the Celtics a little earlier Tuesday than it was Sunday. Boston is still clearly the better team, but Wade left no doubt that he is the best player in this series. And if Sunday's performance somehow ends up being his final home game in a Heat uniform, he gave the fans something besides the 2006 championship to remember him by.


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