Dwyane Wade not ready to let season end for Heat
Fight. Energy. Effort. Passion.
Those have been the Miami Heat buzz words all season.
Clearly, they're resonating deeply within Dwyane Wade right now. Flash looks like Flash again, and a Heat team that seemed primed to get swept out of the NBA playoffs is heading to Boston for Game 5 with a renewed sense of confidence - and a revived superstar.
Wade scored a franchise postseason-record 46 points, carrying Miami past the Boston Celtics 101-92 on Sunday in Game 4 of the teams' Eastern Conference first-round series.
Still down 3-1 in the best-of-seven, Miami will face elimination again in Boston on Tuesday night.
``We've got a fight ahead of us in Game 5,'' Wade said. ``But they have a fight ahead of them as well.''
In Game 4, Wade was the one doing most of the punching. His 46 points were the most in the NBA so far in this year's playoffs.
Maybe Wade found inspiration from what coach Erik Spoelstra talked about in the locker room just before tip-off Sunday.
Spoelstra - a boxing fan - told the story of Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, the infamous Ali ``rope-a-dope'' and how Ali absorbed a beating before finding a way to win at the end.
Games 1, 2 and 3 were the beating.
In Game 4, just like Ali, Wade found a way at the end.
Here are his numbers from Sunday's final 24 minutes, which he played without taking a rest: 9 of 11 from the field, 5 of 5 from 3-point range (all of those coming in a span of 6 minutes), 7 of 10 from the foul line, 30 points.
And he needed to be at his best down the stretch. Boston led 77-71 entering the final quarter Sunday, which typically means a Celtics win. They were 38-8 in the regular season when leading with 12 minutes left to play, plus 2-0 so far in this series in that situation.
Fourth quarter scoring: Wade 19, Celtics 15.
Off to Boston, for a Game 5 the Celtics probably weren't hoping to play.
``Clearly, after this game, he moves in first place as the best player ever to come out of Marquette,'' said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who, like Wade, has his Marquette jersey retired. ``There's no doubt about that. He was fantastic. He made shots and he had to make them. But he made them. We have to do something about it, though. We have to defend him better. He's hurt us this entire series.''
Wade is averaging 33.8 points on 61 percent shooting in the series. Sunday's 16-for-24 effort represented the best one-game shooting percentage in his career, at least in contests where he took 20 or more shots. Down the stretch Sunday, the Celtics knew what was coming - he was on the floor with four reserves at times - and were powerless to stop it.
More of the same is likely coming Tuesday.
``He did what he was supposed to do,'' Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said. ``He took the game over. That's why he is who he is and that's why he is the man for the Heat. He made his teammates better and closed out the game.''
The fact that he had the strength to pull it off makes Sunday's effort even more remarkable.
Wade finished Friday night's game on the bench, his left calf knotted by a severe, paralyzing cramp that made him a spectator for Paul Pierce's buzzer-beater that gave the Celtics a 3-0 series lead.
Less than 48 hours and gallons of fluid later, Wade was good enough to carry the entire Heat load.
``When he plays like that, certainly everybody has an energy and a passion around him,'' Spoelstra said. ``But you believe. You believe. All of a sudden, you start to fall in line. We saw this in Games 3, 4 and 5 in '06, in the '06 finals. He has that ability.''
Spoelstra's flashback to Game 3, NBA finals, 2006, was valid. Down by 13 in the fourth quarter and already trailing the Dallas Mavericks 2-0 in the series, Wade made his infamous vow: ``I ain't going out like this.''
He led the Heat back that day.
He did it again on Sunday, albeit with different stakes and on not as bright a stage.
``It's another chapter,'' Wade said.
And it wasn't the last chapter, either.
Whenever this Heat season ends, be it on Tuesday or Thursday or Saturday, next week, next month, whenever, that will be when all of Miami's attention turns to the long-awaited summer of 2010, the one where Wade will decide to become a free agent and could leave the Heat.
He's expected to stay. The Heat hope to sign talent to join him, too, so title talk could be renewed in Miami.
For at least one more game, though, Wade put all that will-he-or-won't-he chatter on hold.
``I just ain't ready for the summer yet,'' Wade said.