Dwyane Wade sat in the visitors locker room post-game on Sunday night, ice wrapped around both knees, blue towel draped over his head and neck. He’d missed the previous seven games for the Heat, but returned victorious against a slumping Knick team.
Wade looked fresh and on-point, playing an efficient 32 minutes for coach Erik Spoelstra. Miami defeated the Knicks, 86-79, behind 27 points from Wade (11-for-18 from the field, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), who buried New York with a 13-point 4th quarter.
“For me, the fourth quarter is the only one where I can be selfish,” Wade said.
“I played 32 minutes, but it felt a lot more like 50. It took a while. Early on I was just trying to make plays for my teammates.”
Miami has now won four of its past six games and plays in Washington on Monday against the Wizards (10-5), division opponents currently second in the Conference
The Heat sorely missed their leader once he strained his left hamstring early in a game against Indiana on Nov. 12 – prior to his injury the team’s record was 5-2, in his absence they posted a 3-5 record (including the loss to the Pacers).
Wade’s return provided the Heat with some stability that they missed in that time. For a guy perceived to be old, and coming off an injury, Wade’s energy lifted Miami late in the game. On one play, with 6:11 left in the game, Wade nailed a baseline turnaround jumper over Iman Shumpert, two minutes later he wrestled away an offensive board from Shumpert for an easy deuce.
“In the second half, everything I tried to do, I did without thinking about it,” Wade said. “That’s the biggest thing. When you play the game, you just want to be able to use your instincts and your abilities, and in the second half I was able to do that.”
“More than a handful of possessions we got caught,” said Spoelstra post-game. “You give it to your talent at the end of your possession and he has a way of making us look better. It was good to have Dwyane out there.
“He said I played him too many minutes … Welcome back. He was playing his game and it did settle us.”
Wade added that the four-day break between games for the Heat aided his return to the court on Sunday night.
“I’ve been thinking I was going to play today,” he said. “I did everything I needed to do and I don’t feel any restrictions. I had this kind of circled on my calendar and the timing worked, with after the Golden State game to have three days of practice to really push it even more. So I always had this as the schedule if I didn’t have any setbacks.”
The key now lies in keeping himself healthy so the Heat can make a run up the Eastern Conference standings. Spoelstra said there would not be a minutes restriction on Wade heading into Tuesday’s game in Washington.
“I have seen it either way,” stated the coach. “What you want is him out there, and us finding some rhythm. Him reading the game. I think for the most part his game was coming to him.”
The Heat, now 9-7, will look to further move up the standings with a win against the Wizards tomorrow night.
Feature image photo credit: David Dow NBAE/Getty Images