Dwyane Wade disappears in Game 4 of Finals

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After the thorough thrashing the Spurs delivered in a Game 4 victory over the Heat that placed them one win away from the NBA title, it’s perhaps unfair to single out one player’s performance as the reason for the loss.

But watching Dwyane Wade struggle through this one, it’s hard not to believe that his disappearance at the most critical of junctures was something more than simply an off night.

Wade started 1-of-10 from the field through the first three quarters, and chipped in two more buckets in the fourth quarter’s garbage time to finish with 10 points. Eight of those attempts came right at the rim, and he converted just one — partially due to San Antonio’s defensive presence, but more because of a clear lack of elevation or explosiveness when taking those shots.

In addition to the shooting woes, Wade looked a step slow all night long, and lacked any type of energy that would show he was playing at 100 percent. Look at the way Kawhi Leonard badgered him into a turnover late in the fourth — you can say the game was over by then, and surely, it was. But Wade wasn’t able to elude the defender, and ended up falling down as the ball was stolen.

There was another example on the defensive end here, where Wade looked gassed and didn’t even bother to hustle into the paint or jump for a rebound that he might have had a chance at if he had exerted the effort.

For those looking to chalk it up to fatigue or simply being washed up, this has not been the way Wade’s performed this postseason.

In the six Conference Finals games against the Pacers, Wade averaged 19.8 points on 54.5 percent shooting, and posted 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting as recently as Game 3 of the Finals. No, this was definitely different — even if he or his head coach weren’t willing to admit it afterward.

“No,” said Erik Spoelstra, when asked if there was something different about Wade in this one. “You have to credit their defense as well. It looked like he had a couple of opportunities. A couple he just missed, and that happens through competition, and Leonard got a piece of another one. Made a heck of a play on that. He was able to at least get into the paint a few times, but once they got up by 15, then we started to lose a little bit more rhythm from there, and that was everybody, not just exclusive to Dwyane.”

“Yeah, I just missed them,” Wade said, when it was pointed out he seemed to lack his usual explosiveness on his shots. “You know, I’m a very accurate shooter, so I don’t like missing. I’m not used to missing around the basket. But law of averages, man. The ball just didn’t go in. But I’ll take those same opportunities next game for sure.”

We don’t know exactly what was ailing Wade in Game 4, and even if he had put up one of his more traditional statistical lines, it’s likely the Heat still would have been crushed due to the way the Spurs flawlessly whipped the ball around to the open shooter in executing their offense.

But we do know that if Wade can’t bring anything more to a potential elimination game on Sunday, the Spurs will be crowned champions before the night is finished.

“You have to look at yourself and see what you can bring better to the game to be able to help this team,” Wade said. “Then as a team we’ve got to continue to trust and believe in each other, like we’ve done for four years here, like we’ve done all season. I’m confident that we will do that.”

Grizzlies beat slumping Pacers, who fall into tie for final playoff spot

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Mike Conley matched his career high with seven 3-pointers on his way to 36 points, helping the Memphis Grizzlies rout the Indiana Pacers 110-97 on Wednesday night.

Vince Carter had 21 points and eight rebounds, and Zach Randolph finished with 17 points as Memphis snapped a four-game losing streak. Conley went 13 for 21 from the field.

Paul George led the Pacers with 22 points, Aaron Brooks, who provided an early spark from outside the arc, had 18 points, and Thaddeus Young finished with 16.

Indiana lost for the fourth time in five games.

Memphis played without All-Star center Marc Gasol, who missed his third straight game with a left foot strain. But Conley helped the Grizzlies get off the fast start, and Pacers were never able to catch up.

Memphis led by as many as 22 in the second quarter and carried a 72-53 advantage into the break. Conley scored 22 points in the first half, and the Grizzlies went 10 for 17 from beyond the arc in the first two periods.

Brooks made four 3-pointers and scored 14 in the first half for Indiana.

The Grizzlies led 96-79 after three, and the sliding Pacers never threatened in the fourth.

Indiana (37-38) dropped into a tie with Miami for the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Both are two games behind Milwaukee and Atlanta.

The Heat, Bucks and Hawks all won Wednesday night.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Brooks made a 3-pointer in the first quarter to reach 800 for his career. … Indiana dropped to 0-8 in road games on the second night of a back-to-back.

Grizzlies: JaMychal Green was out with left shoulder soreness. That caused Memphis to use its 22nd different starting lineup this season. … Memphis scored 38 points in the first quarter, matching its highest point total for any quarter this season. … Memphis has made at least 10 3-pointers in 36 games. … In the third quarter, Carter passed Ray Allen (24,505) for 22nd in NBA history for career points scored. … Reserve guard Andrew Harrison left in the third quarter with a right ankle injury.

PACERS HOMECOMINGS

Pacers forward Thaddeus Young played high school basketball in Memphis and still lives there. Pacers guard Monta Ellis has a home in the Eads community east of Memphis.

HOME STRETCH

Memphis (41-34), which sits seventh in the Western Conference playoff race, has a beneficial schedule down the stretch. Of its seven remaining games, five are at home, and five are against teams with losing records.

UP NEXT

Pacers: Visit Toronto on Friday.

Grizzlies: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Three Mavericks teammates restrain Devin Harris, who still gets ejected (video)

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dallas guard Devin Harris was ejected from Wednesday night’s 121-118 loss to New Orleans after angrily protesting calls made by official Ben Taylor.

Harris was assessed two quick technical fouls by Taylor, the first after Harris protested Taylor’s decision to whistle him for a personal foul when he collided with Pelicans’ guard Jordan Crawford.

The impact with Crawford sent Harris crashing to the court, marking the second time in the period that Harris had gone down hard. The first time, no foul was called when a collision with Pelicans’ guard E'Twaun Moore left Harris flat on his back.

When Harris was assessed the first technical, he went into a tirade and had to be restrained by teammates as he advanced toward Taylor. That triggered his ejection.

Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon beats shot clock, Celtics with dagger (video)

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Who should win Rookie of the Year?

Joel Embiid has been, by far, the best rookie while on the court, but a season-ending injury will limit him to just 31 games. Malcolm Brogdon has been next best over the full course of the season. Dario Saric is making a heck of a finishing kick, and with a couple weeks left, he can still catch Brogdon.

But Brogdon got his own late signature moment in the Bucks’ 103-100 win over the Celtics tonight.

With the Bucks up one in the final seconds and the shot clock nearing expiration, Brogdon hit an off-balance jumper with 3.9 seconds left to produce the final margin.

Milwaukee’s win drops Boston (48-27) to second in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Cavaliers (47-26). The Bucks (39-36) keep pace with the Hawks in a tie for fifth.

Russell Westbrook scores most points ever in triple-double, 57

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Russell Westbrook led a double-digit comeback in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Been there done, that.

Westbrook hit a defining buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Been there done, that.

Westbrook posted a historic triple-double. Been there, done that.

All three in one game?

That’s a new level for Westbrook, who lifted the Thunder to a 114-106 win over the Magic tonight while posting an incredible stat line: 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

James Harden scored 53 in a triple-double just this season, and Westbrook has already one-upped that record.

This MVP race is one for the ages.