SAN ANTONIO — If there was a single play that showed just how much Dwyane Wade looked like the version we called Flash back in 2006 when he led the Heat to a championship and was named Finals MVP for his efforts, it was this spectacular steal and dunk in transition early in the fourth quarter of Miami’s Game 4 win over the Spurs.
Wade has been limited physically due to a knee issue that has bothered him for much of the season, and he’s still feeling the effects. LeBron James confirmed as much during his postgame comments.
“Of course he’s hurting,” James said. “He’s been playing with a bum knee all year.”
There was nothing bum about Wade in this one, especially on this play which helped reclaim momentum for his team as the Spurs were making their final push.
San Antonio had pulled to within five with just under nine minutes to play, before Wade took control on consecutive possessions. After driving from the top of the three-point arc into the lane and converting a spinning, left-handed floater from eight feet out, he did what Miami as a team has done so often over the course of the season — he used his defense to spark a lightning-quick score in transition.
Wade stepped into the passing lane and picked off a pass from Danny Green, and headed the other way. Gary Neal was back, but Wade brought the ball over his head, before elevating past him for the explosive slam dunk. The Miami lead was nine, and aside from the next possession where the Spurs got back to within seven, San Antonio was unable to get any closer the rest of the way.
The version of Wade we saw in Game 4 was incredible, and this play more than any other showed just how active and aggressive he was able to be during a completely disruptive performance.
“I knew I was on when I took it over the guy’s head and dunked it on the break,” Wade said. “That was a little vintage right there.”
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Health was always the major question with this team, and it won’t soften as Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari age through lucrative contracts.
The final year of Beverley’s contract is guaranteed for just $5,027,028 next season, and the 29-year-old will spend most of the summer recovering from this injury. That salary is probably low enough that the Clippers will keep him without hesitation.
Until then, down a couple point guards, the Clippers have no choice but to continue leaning more on Austin Rivers. That also means greater roles for second-round rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell. That’s just too many players facing outsized responsibility.
The Pelicans, Grizzlies, Jazz and any other team competing for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference ought to feel better about their chances. They’re still competing with each other, and it’s doubtful all three make it. But Beverley’s injury helps clear the way.
The Clippers, who didn’t want to take a major step back after Chris Paul‘s departure, must confront an even more uneasy reality.
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