Wade leads way for Heat vs. Clippers
Dwyane Wade had everything going. Jump shots, drives to the rim, passes out of the post.
He was vintage, on a night when the Miami Heat needed him to be that way.
Wade scored 11 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter, an ailing LeBron James added 18, and the Heat got enough stops down the stretch to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 102-97 on Thursday night for their third straight win.
Wade made 13 of 22 shots, added a team-best seven assists and fueled the fourth-quarter burst that allowed the Heat to build enough of a cushion to hold off the Clippers in the final minutes.
"Everyone said he was done," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Go figure."
Including playoffs, the Heat (4-2) have won 51 of their past 57 games when Wade scores at least 20 points, going back to June 2012. It's also the first time since last March that Wade has scored at least 20 points in four consecutive games, this streak immediately following him sitting out the second game of the season for rest.
"I know I can play basketball," Wade said. "I know when I'm healthy what I can do."
Wade either scored or assisted on Miami's first six field goals of the fourth quarter, including a three-point play while getting fouled on a jumper by J.J. Redick. About a minute later, Wade set up Shane Battier for a 3-pointer that put Miami up 91-80, and the 2006 NBA Finals MVP punctuated it all with a fist pump.
"You can see in the third quarter they slowed the game down and we slowed it down with them," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "And I thought that really hurt us. We had a 6-minute stretch where we could have stretched the game. Instead we started walking it up, slowing everything down. They're too good with a set defense. We allowed them to set their defense. That's when all the turnovers came."
Blake Griffin had 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers (3-3). His dunk with 31 seconds left got the Clippers within four, but Griffin allowed about 15 seconds to run off the clock without fouling James on the ensuing possession.
James made one free throw to push Miami's lead to five, and that closed the scoring.
Redick scored 15 points, Jamal Crawford added 14, Chris Paul finished with 11 points and 12 assists, and DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers, who led for most of the first half.
Chris Bosh, playing for the first time since his wife delivered a baby earlier this week, finished with 12 points for Miami as did Ray Allen and Chris Andersen had 10. The Heat extended their club record by scoring at least 100 points in a sixth consecutive game to start the season.
But James spent part of the game with a wrap on his back, which he said locked up on him after he dived for a loose ball in the first quarter. The issue, James said, has been nagging him for a couple weeks.
"I would probably have to not be able to get out of the bed," James said when asked what it would take for him to miss a game. "Can't get out of the bed, then can't show up here."
James still made a big play late. The Clippers had a shot to get within six with about 3 minutes left, as Redick drove toward the rim from the right wing. James — an exceptional shot blocker in transition — was stalking the play, and instead of challenging the league's four-time MVP at the rim, Redick tried a pullup 6-footer.
It bounced off.
"I was baiting him to see if he wanted to take it all the way to the hole," James said. "He's a great shooter. He'll probably make that shot 99 times out of 100."
For the sixth time in as many games this season, the Heat found themselves in a quick deficit — and for the fourth time, it was exactly 9-2, just as it was against Chicago, Washington and Toronto. The Heat trailed Brooklyn 11-3 early, and fell behind at Philadelphia on the season's second night by scores of 19-0 and 26-4.
The Clippers had a 56-52 halftime lead even with Paul being held to five points, his low for a first half this season. Griffin opened the second half with a 3-pointer, but the Heat outscored the Clippers by 15 over the next 15 minutes, mainly by clamping down on Paul.
"It was me making bad decisions," Paul said. "I have to trust my teammates. I just played a bad game. I have to get the ball out of my hands."
NOTES: The Heat, who have honored returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan for several seasons, had seven Vietnam veterans on the court for a pregame ceremony. Paul was among the players who greeted them pregame, telling each of them, "I appreciate you." The teams wore specially designed shooting shirts adorned in red, white and blue. . . . Spoelstra coached his 400th regular-season game for the Heat. . . . Clippers F Matt Barnes remained sidelined with what the team is calling a bruised right thigh. Rivers said he doesn't expect Barnes to be ready to play Saturday at Houston.