MIAMI — Dwyane Wade claimed before Wednesday’s game there was “no story’’ surrounding his ailing knee.
He then provided one.
Say what you want about the Miami Heat guard and his performance this postseason. There’s no question he has been hurting, which has resulted in at least some concern.
Still, before Game 5 of an Eastern semifinal against the Chicago Bulls, Wade shrugged off all the criticism he had been getting for averaging just 12.3 points to start the playoffs. He vowed simply to help the best he could.
All Wade did Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena was turn back the clock and show why he’s a nine-time All-Star.
Wade scored six of his 18 points and pulled down three of his seven rebounds in eight fourth-quarter minutes as the Heat came from behind to win 94-91 and claim the series 4-1.
“(I’m not) supposed to be sitting up here at this podium right now,’’ Wade said in an interview room generally reserved for key playoff performers. “I always try to overcome. I understand certain things that are said. I’m harder on myself than anybody.’’
In Game 4 Monday, Wade had shot just 3 of 10 for 6 points. He aggravated the bone bruise on his right knee when he banged into Bulls forward Jimmy Butler.
Many called for Wade to sit out Game 5 like he did Game 4 of Miami’s first-round sweep of Milwaukee. But there was no way that was going to happen. The Bulls aren’t the Bucks, and Wade was determined to play.
“(Tuesday), I took a mental day for myself and I did everything I could to get ready for the game,’’ Wade said. “More than anything, my teammates (helped me) before the game. (LeBron James) said, ‘I need one from you.’ ’’
Wade delivered when it mattered plenty. The Heat, who had blown an 18-point first-quarter lead to fall behind by 11 in the third quarter, were up 84-83 midway through the fourth quarter when Wade went into action.
He had a driving jumper followed by a floating jump shot. Then he had a blocked shot and soon a resounding put-back dunk to give Miami a 93-86 lead with 3:02 remaining.
“This game, he was just lying in the weeds,’’ said center Chris Bosh, whose Heat advance to play either Indiana or New York in the East finals, which will start Monday or Wednesday in Miami. “He was just waiting and he saw his opportunity and he seized it.’’
Before the fourth quarter, Wade had gone to the locker room, leading some to wonder if his knee was acting up again. But Wade said he merely wanted to get retaped to be fully ready for a fourth quarter that began with the Heat trailing 77-69.
He was ready.
So call it another big playoff comeback for Wade. He had an injured left knee in last year’s postseason that eventually would require surgery. Following a disastrous Game 3 of an East semifinal loss at Indiana, when he shot 2 of 13 for 5 points and squabbled with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, he visited his former college coach, Tom Crean, and it worked wonders. He came back with 30 points in a Game 4 road victory over the Pacers.
Well, Wade on Monday in Chicago chatted with Crean, his coach at Marquette who is now at Indiana. Looks like it helped again.
“That’s my life,’’ Wade said of having an injury-riddled career and often needing to bounce back from adversity.
Wade, who shot 7 of 13 and had six assists and two steals in 37 minutes, seemingly has shrugged off as well all the recent criticism of his play. As for James, that’s another story.
James led the Heat with 23 points and talked about what a tough series it was against the gritty Bulls, who generally played well despite not having injured starters Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng. James also revealed it’s been tough seeing what Wade has had to go through.
“It’s a Catch-22,’’ said James, who shot just 5 of 14 but had seven rebounds and eight assists. “If he doesn’t play, you guys are like, ‘Why are you not in uniform? It’s a playoff game. Why is he not playing?’ When he does play and he’s not scoring 20 points, it’s ‘D-Wade shouldn’t be out there. Should he rest?’ I really don’t care for that too much. He’s a Hall of Famer. He has two rings. He doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone. No one. As his teammate, his brother, man, I love the fight he continues to give. … I could go on and on about how great he is, but I really don’t care for the trash talk that he receives.’’
Not everybody on the Heat, though, was so serious about Wade skeptics having again surfaced. In fact, guard James Jones said it actually gives the team some chuckles.
“I guess it makes great media because they keep writing the stories, ‘He’s hurt. Oh, he has to show up’ And he shows up, and, ‘Oh, he played through it,’ ’’ Jones said. “He’s done it his entire career, so it doesn’t surprise us. … We normally laugh at it because, unless you’re in this room or unless you play through the injuries that guys across this league play through, we all know it’s just someone’s opinion.’’
There was less to laugh about after the Heat blew a 22-4 lead to start the game and fell behind 75-64 late in the third quarter. The Bulls, who got a game-high 26 points from forward Carlos Boozer, were showing no signs of letting up.
But then the Heat got some impressive production from their bench to start the fourth quarter and regained the lead. Then Wade looked like his old self.
“That’s Dwyane Wade,’’ Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. “What can you say? He’s one of the best basketball players in the NBA. Everybody keeps saying this and that about him. It doesn’t matter. He can play basketball.’’
And he knows how to come up with a storyline in the playoffs even he might claim there’s not one to be had.