Dwyane Wade is 36 — and he’s still got some playoff magic in his bag.
Bound for Basketball’s Hall of Fame in the not so distant future, the Heat’s hero of heroes delivered another amazing playoff performance to lift Miami to a breathtaking 113-103 victory over the Philadephia 76ers in Game 2 of their first-round series Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.
Wade scored 28 points on 11 of 17 shooting and had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in 26 minutes off the bench. And the Heat needed every ounce of it to hold off Ben Simmons and the talented young Sixers.
“He’s different when you put him in a Miami Heat uniform,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I don’t care what his numbers were anywhere else or all year long or at different times. He’s for these moments.
Wade had a lot of special moments Monday night.He started it by making his first seven shots.Then, after scoring 21 points to rally the Heat from a nine-point deficit to a 56-42 halftime lead, Wade took the game over again in the fourth quarter after Philadelphia, winners of 17 in a row coming in, had trimmed the Heat’s 16-point lead to 98-96 on an Ersan Ilyasova tip-in with 4:29 remaining.
In a flash, Wade stripped the ball from Dario Saric and scored on a dunk, found a wide open James Johnson for another slam moments later and then grabbed an offensive rebound before Goran Dragic hit a jump shot. Suddenly, the Heat’s lead was 104-96.
“I think Dwyane’s steal changed the game,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “If you had to pick one defining moment, one defining play, I think it was that.”
Moments later, Wade put the game on ice with a fadeaway 23-foot jumper with 47.9 seconds to play.
“I just came in with an aggressive approach,” Wade said. “Whatever minutes I was going to play I was going to be aggressive. As [Justise] Winslow told me the other night ’empty the clip.’ I emptied it.”
Coming home with a split on the road was big for the Heat. Miami is 10-6 all-time when a 7-game series starts 1-1 and 1-4 when it falls behind 0-2 (the only series win came in the 2006 NBA Finals vs. Mavericks).
Game 3 is Thursday in Miami.
The Heat had a lot it wanted to improve upon after getting crushed by the Sixers in Game 1.
It started with defence and keeping the Sixers off the three-point line.
Philadelphia, which made 18 of its 28 three-point attempts in Game 1, finished 7 of 36 from beyond the arc and shot 41.7 percent overall in Game 2. After collecting 35 assists on Saturday and scoring 130 points (the most the Heat has ever allowed), Philly finished with 22 assists Monday.
“They responded as we talked about, as I anticipated,” Brown said. “I give the Miami Heat credit in relation to the physicality of that game. I think their ball pressure and standing up our passes was excellent. I think Dwyane Wade offensively was just vintage Dwyane Wade.”
Wade wasn’t the only Heat player to provide some scoring punch Monday night. Six players finished in double figures for the Heat.
Dragic, who was 4 of 14 shooting for 15 points in Game 1, had a more efficient night with 20 points on 8 of 14shooting.
Richardson, held to four points on 1 of 7 shooting Saturday, bounced back with 14 points including eight in the third quarter as the Heat took an 86-75 lead into the fourth quarter.
Johnson followed up his 13-point Game 1 performance with 18 points (7 of 7 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists on Monday.
Center Hassan Whiteside, who had only two points, six rebounds and played only 12 minutes in Game 1, finished with four points, five rebounds and one block in 15 minutes Monday. He picked up his fourth foul with 9:25 left to play in the third quarter and watched from the bench the rest of the game. But Spoelstra liked Whiteside’s minutes.
“His activity level was superb,” he said. “Without those 15 minutes, it might have been totally different. Those were much needed. He got that fourth foul and I had the intention to put him back in the fourth. We just didn’t get around to it when they made their run. They went even smaller. But we can definitely build on that.”
Ben Simmons finished with 24 points to lead the Sixers. Saric had 23.
Just like they did in the second half of Saturday night’s blowout of the Heat, Philadelphia opened the game with Ilyasova at centre and immediately began attacking the rim as Whiteside and his teammates went out on the perimeter to try and stop another Philly 3-point barrage.
The Sixers offence took advantage of Whiteside’s presence away from the paint early.
As the Heat racked up fouls (the first eight fouls of the game were called on Miami), the Sixers built a 29-22 lead off 18 points in the paint and 12 second-chance points off six offensive rebounds. But things quickly changed in the second quarter.
The Heat began applying full-court pressure with Justice Winslow leading the charge and the Heat didn’t allow the Sixers much room to operate at all on the three-point line.
Miami outscored Philadelphia 34-13 in the second quarter and held the Sixers to 4 of 21 shooting in the period and 2 of 18 shooting from three-point range for the half.
All the while, Wade couldn’t miss. He led an 18-2 Heat run to open the second quarter and had 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting at the break-in only 12 minutes and 24 seconds of work.
Said Whiteside: “I’ve been saying it for a while now, ‘It’s good to be back in the playoffs with my brother.’ There’s no purple-shirt guy this time.”
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