Wade not his usual self, especially down stretch
MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade's pain wasn't limited to his strained right rib muscle.
Wade grimaced throughout Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night, occasionally clutching his right side, and clearly wasn't his usual self. Regardless, he managed to get 20 points and four assists.
And it was all in vain, not enough to propel the Miami Heat into the NBA Finals for the first time.
Detroit ended the series the way it started, winning on Miami's home floor -- and this time, ending the Heat's season. The defending champion Pistons wasted an early 10-point lead and trailed by six points with 7:11 remaining but rallied for an 88-82 victory.
"I couldn't give my all-out effort that my teammates deserved and that Miami deserved," Wade said. "But I gave it as much as I could."
Wade -- who spent much of the last four days getting treatment on the muscle he strained in Game 5 -- was 5-for-6 from the field in the third quarter, helping Miami outscore Detroit 26-19 in the period and possibly put itself in position to advance to the Finals against San Antonio.
But he was 0-for-6 in the final quarter, never showing the explosiveness that has been the hallmark of his first two seasons in the league. And that was enough for the Pistons to eke out a rare Game 7 road win; visiting teams are 17-74 all-time on the road in winner-take-all, best-of-seven situations.
"It was a challenge," Detroit guard Richard Hamilton said. "He came out and made tough shots. The one thing I wanted to do was make him work. If I make him work, it's got to tire him out."
The injury kept Wade out of Game 6 in Detroit, and without their scoring leader the Heat sputtered their way to a 91-66 defeat.
In an effort to get ready for Game 7, Wade took part in the team's Monday morning shootaround and received treatment throughout the day -- including receiving an injection in his chest to help him deal with the pain.
"Anybody in my position would have done it," Wade said.
Added Heat coach Stan Van Gundy: "When somebody is having to stick a needle in your chest just so you can go out and play ... I thought he was phenomenal."
Dealing with injuries was commonplace during the postseason for Miami, which had all five starters battling some sort of painful malady. Shaquille O'Neal had a sore thigh, Damon Jones a sore heel, Eddie Jones an ankle problem and Udonis Haslem played with a badly dislocated finger on his left hand.
"We still had a lot of opportunities to win," O'Neal said. "I'm proud of the guys. They fought hard."
Still, no one in the Heat locker room -- Wade included -- wanted to use the injuries as a reason for falling short in Game 7.
"Our whole starting five was injured," Wade said. "So? So what?"
Excuse or no, the injuries didn't help. And now, the real hurting for Miami begins.
"I know Dwyane was less than 100 percent," Pistons coach Larry Brown said, "but he was phenomenal."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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