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.”