SAN ANTONIO — Dwyane Wade declared 2½ years ago he no longer wanted to be known as “Flash,’’ the nickname teammate Shaquille O’Neal gave the high flyer before the Miami Heat’s 2006 title run.
For at least one night, though, Wade said people can go back to calling him that. Not as if he could stop anybody even if he wanted.
Miami forward LeBron James called the guard by the nickname several times after the Heat’s 109-93 NBA Finals win Thursday night over San Antonio in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. He went so far as to say Wade “was ’06 Flash tonight,” referring to when Wade was Finals MVP.
Wade, who has been showing some tread wear at age 31 and really has been slowed lately by a bone bruise on his right knee, sure looked like that guy from the past at the AT&T Center. With Wade totaling 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and six steals, the Heat tied the series 2-2 in what coach Erik Spoelstra called a “survival game.”
“Yeah, (Heat swingman) Mike Miller kept calling me Flash all night,” Wade said of providing permission for the nickname to be rolled out again even if he had wanted a new identity when Miami’s Big Three came together. “You can call me anything right now. If I keep playing like that, you can call me whatever you want to call me. I’m already getting called a lot of stuff, so whatever.’’
Most of it lately has been negative. Wade hasn’t looked like himself this postseason, failing to score more than 21 points and only twice having hit 20 before Thursday.
But Wade was back, and so were the two other members of the Big Three. James, coming off a rugged outing in a lopsided 113-77 loss in Game 3, had 33 points and 11 rebounds and Chris Bosh had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“It was on our shoulders, obviously,’’ James said. “When all three of us are clicking at the same time, we’re a very tough team to beat.’’
Actually, James had said before Game 4 it was on his shoulders. He had vowed to play much better than when he shot 7 of 21 and scored just 15 points in Game 3. Considering James has won the last two MVP trophies and four of the past five, most figured he would step up.
As for Bosh, at least he’s healthy. So the center’s showing can’t be considered a huge surprise.
That wasn’t the case for Wade. He’s had some solid first halves recently before fading. But this was the first time he’s really sustained a game in awhile, and did he ever.
“I needed a game like this, but my teammates needed a game like this from me,’’ said Wade, who attacked the hoop and shot 14 of 25 on the way to his first 30-point game since March 4. “Needed me to be aggressive. Needed me to play the way that I’m capable of.’’
Nobody was happier with Wade having this sort of performance than James. He’s had his share of big games this season only to watch other members of the Big Three falter. Sometimes it’s been sad watching Wade try to do things his body won’t let him.
“No matter how great you are, no matter what your resume is, to have a game like this, it let’s you know that you’re still one bad …,’’ James said before pausing. “You know the next two words. I can’t say, my kids may be watching.’’
With the Spurs packing in their defense and James struggling, Spoelstra had sought to help that out by starting Miller in place of power forward Udonis Haslem. The thinking was having an extra shooter would spread the floor for James.
As it turned out, the Heat fell behind 15-5 to start the game and Miller went scoreless on the night. What James really needed was other members of the Big Three to get going. The Heat might have had success with Jarvis Varnado and Juwan Howard as the other starters with James, Wade and Bosh playing the way they did.
“(The Heat) needed the Big Three to play the way we’re capable of,’’ said Wade, who said e managed to fight through some stiffness in his knee. “(Teammates) depend on us a lot. … We’re not going to win this series if myself, Chris and LeBron don’t show up to play on a consistent basis.’’
So now the focus shifts to San Antonio’s Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Duncan had 20 points but just five rebounds. Parker, playing with a hamstring strain, had 15 points but went scoreless in the second half. Ginbobili has been a disaster lately, and Thursday had just five points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Duncan said Ginobili is “trying to be incredibly unselfish’’ and needs to be a “little more selfish.’’ Parker admitted he felt “kind of weak’’ but that he’s hopeful of being 100 percent after having two days off before Sunday’s Game 5 at the AT&T Center.
Even if some of the Spurs players are better, they still have to find a way to slow down Miami’s trio of stars.
“When Bosh, Wade and James score the way they did and shoot it the way they did, teams are going to have a difficult time,’’ said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, whose Spurs were blitzed 48-31 the rest of the game after having their last lead of the night at 62-61 midway through the third quarter.
Bosh also rebounded, something he hasn’t done much of this postseason. And he played an impressive defensive game, which included two blocks and two steals.
“I always believe that if I bring the necessary energy, things will go well,’’ Bosh said.
As to why he hasn’t brought it too many times this postseason, that’s a question for another day. As for James, it’s not often he is lacking in aggression, but Game 3 was one of those rare nights.
James was very disappointed after that outing. But it fueled him for Thursday.
“As bad as I played in Game 3, I put all the pressure on me to say I can’t afford to play like that and hope for us to win,’’ said James, who got his mid-range shot going and was 15 of 25 from the field. “I watched the film. It hurt watching it. I didn’t like the way I was playing. But I just came in with a whole new clean slate.’’
So did Wade. Consider that in 15 of his previous 16 games, he had scored fewer than 20 points. And this is a guy with a career scoring average of 24.7.
But the guard put aside his pain on a night the Heat couldn’t afford to lose. James said Wade “went back in his bag (and) was Flash.’’
Whether Wade likes it or not, his nickname is back.