Dwyane Wade is limping around and having the worst postseason of his NBA career. Still, it’s hard to think it could be doomsday when Wade’s Miami Heat have won three straight games by a combined margin of 70 points.
As always is the case, naysayers will dwell on trouble spots that could hamper the Heat down the playoff road. The reality, though, is nobody really knows.
It’s hard to fully evaluate the Heat so far this postseason, because they really haven’t been tested. They swept hapless Milwaukee 4-0 in the first round and they’re up 3-1 on Chicago in an Eastern Conference semifinal after Monday night’s 88-65 win at the United Center.
Yes, a game Bulls outfit stunned Miami in Game 1. But, with injured Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich all out this series, they’re hopelessly outmanned and nobody really expected they could seriously threaten the Heat.
So what awaits the Heat, who are all but certain to wrap up the series Wednesday in Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena against these gored Bulls? Does it depend on the health of Wade, who really has struggled of late due to a bone bruise on his right knee?
Maybe. But maybe not.
If the guard were at full strength, the Heat probably would be invincible this postseason. After all, they reeled off 27 straight wins from early February to late March.
Wade, though, is averaging just 12.3 points this postseason on a knee he hurt in March that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot better even though he’s had periods of rest. He’s averaging just 11.3 points in the four games against the Bulls after shooting 3 of 10 for 6 points Monday.
“Some days are better the others,’’ admitted Wade, who aggravated his knee in the second quarter by banging into Bulls forward Jimmy Butler. “It’s just certain games, it might do something and shooting pain might come up. … But I was able to come back (after banging into Butler) and help my team out.’’
Wade did do that. Even though he struggled offensively, he was able to finish with three rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal in 29 minutes.
For those who think Miami seriously will be hampered later in the playoffs with a banged-up Wade, consider he had a bad left knee in last year’s playoffs that required offseason surgery and that center Chris Bosh missed nine games due to an abdominal strain. Yet the Heat still won the title.
On the other side of the coin, it’s possible Miami could run into some teams it doesn’t match up that well against later in this postseason. The most likely scenario is an East semifinal against physical Indiana and a Finals date is possible with San Antonio or Memphis, two other tough teams.
No, Wade doesn’t play inside. But if the Heat aren’t winning the battle in the post, a hurting Wade gives them them less of an advantage on the perimeter.
But something is happening in this series against Chicago that can make Heat fans feel not as bad about Wade hobbling. And it’s not just that LeBron is being LeBron.
LeBron James, at 23.8, is averaging three points fewer this series than he did during the regular season. But he is dictating games, trying to get plenty of players involved.
“We got his back as a team,’’ James, who had 27 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in Game 4, said of making up for Wade ailing.
With Wade not scoring as much, the Heat have gotten a much-needed backcourt boost from Norris Cole. The second-year man has had two 18-point games in this series and is shooting an incredible 9 of 10 from 3-point range.
Then there’s Bosh, who has been the Heat’s No. 3 option for three seasons behind James and Wade. Well, with Wade not himself, Bosh has made the most lately of now being No. 2. He’s averaged 17.0 points and 12.5 rebounds his past two games.
“I think any time you have a guy who’s not 100 percent, you have to give it a little bit more effort and Dwyane has been having a tough time, just really kind of getting into the flow of some of the games,’’ said Bosh, who got the Heat off to a great start Monday by scoring 10 of his 14 points in the first 10 minutes. “When you have an opportunity like that, you have to really step it up.’’
Bosh’s teammates stepped up when he was out during last year’s postseason. And now he’s returning the favor for Wade.
Then again, Wade isn’t out. He might be limping around, but nobody has told him he won’t be able to be a key contributor the rest of the playoffs.
Wade sat out Game 4 against the Bucks to rest his knee. But he dismissed any thoughts of missing Game 5 against the Bulls.
“It’s frustrating at times, but you got to do what you can do,’’ Wade said. “I’ve been playing on it for almost two months now. So I’ll make the adjustment.’’
Wade has bounced back before when he’s been hurt and been counted out. Perhaps he won’t do it in dramatic fashion this postseason, but the deep Heat are making sure he’s getting help.
Then again, nobody really will know how the Heat stand until the competition heats up.