In the Heat’s Game 4 win over the Spurs, however, the old Wade was back.
“That dude was amazing,” LeBron James said of his teammate’s performance. “Like I said, he was ’06 Flash tonight. And we needed every bit of him.”
Maybe not every bit, as James was pretty spectacular himself. But if not in terms of the sheer numbers Wade was able to put up, Miami certainly needed the active, athletic, and aggressive superstar they know he can be on both ends of the floor.
“I needed a game like this,” Wade said. “But my teammates needed a game like this from me. Needed me to be aggressive. Needed me to play the way that I’m capable of. Most important, they needed the Big Three to play the way we’re capable of.”
Wade finished with 32 points, six rebounds, four assists, and six steals. It was only the third time in 20 playoff games this season he’s scored at least 20 points, but there were other indicators of how strong he was feeling in this one.
“The six steals let me know he’s very active both offensively and defensively,” James said. “The 25 shots let me know that he was aggressive, every shot that he took. He wasn’t passive. In transition, he attacked the rim. He continued to attack throughout the game. And no matter how great you are, no matter what your résumé is, to have a game like this, it lets you know that you’re still one bad ‑‑ you know the next two words. I can’t say, my kids may be watching.”
The second halves of games haven’t been kind to Wade in these playoffs, but Game 4 was different. He kept attacking until the game was through, and with just under nine minutes to play, he got a steal in the open court, got around a defender in transition, and exploded to the rim to finish with an emphatic one-handed slam.
Just like 2006 Flash would have.
“No, I don’t feel like 2006,” Wade said. “But it felt good. When you see the ball go through the basket, then you get more confident. I knew I was on when I took it over the guy’s head and dunked it on the break. That was a little vintage right there.”
Miami got monster performances from James and Chris Bosh in addition to the one Wade turned in, and the reality is, no one’s beating this Heat team on a night when that happens. But LeBron’s effort is repeatable, as is that of Bosh, especially defensively. The same can’t be said about Wade, because we haven’t seen him put together back-to-back games like this one at any time during this postseason.
If Wade is able to overcome his knee as he did in this one, the Spurs are going to be in serious trouble, facing a version of the Heat that was the league’s best over the course of the regular season. But even Wade himself doesn’t know if he’ll be able to do it again in Game 5.
“I guess there’s only one way to find out,” he said. “See you Sunday.”