Wade had his chance
Mario Chalmers flashed open at the 3-point line. If you recall, he buried a critical 3-pointer on national television when he starred at the University of Kansas, and he was in position to do it again.
However, Dwyane Wade seemingly had something to prove. He was not going to allow Chalmers to take the potential winning shot in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Despite having a miserable series, Wade knew he had to take that final shot. While LeBron James may be the Miami Heat’s most talented player, Wade is the franchise’s most identifiable player, an all-time great who accepted less money and notoriety to bring James and Chris Bosh to South Beach.
The shot was crisp, uncontested, and pure. Wade, like Kobe Bryant and James, is not a high-percentage 3-point shooter, but opposing defenses cringe at the possibility of him getting a clean look from beyond the arc with the game in the balance. But like most of Wade’s shots in this series, it rimmed out, spinning away as time expired as the Celtics held on for a 93-91 overtime win.
Wade missed 15 of 22 shots and finished with 20 points, unable to carry the Heat when James fouled out with 1:51 left in OT. Instead, Wade played the part of facilitator in that final 1:51, and the Heat went scoreless the rest of the way.
While Wade’s leadership and sacrifice during the last two seasons cannot be questioned, he was unable to revert to his “Flash’’ days offensively. He finished 16 for 42 shooting in the two games at TD Garden, getting off to painfully slow starts.
On Sunday night, he missed 9 of 11 shots in the first half, but responded with 9 third-quarter points as the Heat’s defense stifled the Celtics and rallied from an 18-point deficit. But when it really counted, when the Heat could have stolen the game and headed home to potentially close out the Celtics, Wade was 1 for 5 with a lone 3-pointer in his final 17 minutes.
He could have compensated for his inconsistency with that winning 3-pointer, but his cleanest look of the night meant little.
“Yeah, a good look, on line, it didn’t want to go in,’’ he said. “Couldn’t ask for a better look, got the shot off I wanted from the standpoint of how we ran it. They took away our first option and then I tried to make a one-on-one play and got a good shot.’’
“Yeah, it was on line,’’ he repeated. “That’s all you can ask for. I got my legs under me a little bit. It just decided it didn’t want to go in tonight.’’
Wade’s “Flash’’ hasn’t completely dimmed, but he has endured a challenging postseason. He was 25 for 77 over a four-game stretch, including scoring just 5 points in Game 3 of the conference semifinals against the Pacers, including getting into a shouting match with coach Erik Spoelstra.
Wade has not been a major factor in the conference finals, not like he has been in previous playoff series. The Celtics have trapped him each time he touched the ball, forcing him to pass or make an acrobatic attempt at a field goal. In Miami, some of those attempts went down, but the past two games Wade has been unable to finish, and also unable to get to the free throw line.
After zero attempts from the line in Game 3, he managed just five in Game 4. He appears to be pressing, unable to score with the ease he’s accustomed to, and feeling the pressure to produce and relieve responsibility from James.
James was on the bench during the final seconds, being whistled for an offensive foul while posting up Mickael Pietrus. James didn’t have the opportunity to come through late in the game, something for which he has been heavily criticized throughout his career.
It had to be Wade, and you could have imagined the ovation he would have received Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena had that final shot gone down. Now there is a level of doubt with the Heat. They were supposed to polish off the Celtics with relative ease. “Take it easy on the old guy’’ is what George Foreman heard from friends before he fought Muhammad Ali in 1974.
And Foreman did, and ended up on his back in the eighth round. The Heat aren’t on their backs, but they have been staggered. The officiating was a factor in Boston, where the foul totals were more even, the officials less sympathetic toward Wade.
But he wanted the chance to be the hero. He waved off Chalmers, who has been a thorn in the Celtics’ side.
“I felt like I got a lot of good shots,’’ Wade said. “I got a lot of good looks, way better than last game. I felt a lot [more] comfortable, Coach did a good job, I got the ball in certain areas. It’s a 50-50 shot when they go up. They don’t always go in, but I’ll shoot them again.’’
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.