Dwyane Wade looks back at full strength
MIAMI -- Fortunately for Dwyane Wade, there is plenty of wood paneling in the Miami locker room.
So the Heat guard didn't have to go far when he said "knock on wood" and then did just that after his team's 123-116 overtime victory Wednesday night over Toronto at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Wade, who had left knee surgery last July, said early in the season it wouldn't be fair to really judge his play until after next month's All-Star break. Never mind that TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who was ripping Wade regularly in late November and early December, either didn't hear Wade say that or just ignored it.
After the 10-year veteran got done knocking on wood, he indicated that waiting until the All-Star break to see the old Dwyane Wade is no longer required. That sure looked to be the case when Wade scored a game-high 35 points against the Raptors, his best regular-season effort in nearly two years.
"Yes, I am," Wade said of being ahead of schedule in his recovery. "I think I've been kind of ahead of schedule all year long. But early on, coming off the knee injury, it was tough. I was feeling good some days and some didn't. But right now, it's been consistent, and I've been doing everything I can to make sure that my body is doing all the extra work I need to do trying to make sure I give myself a chance. Knock on wood, I've been feeling good and I hope to stay that way."
Let it be known Wade didn't actually knock on wood the second time he used the expression.
To show how important Wade can be to the Heat, forward LeBron James had a triple-double of 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, but that was barely mentioned after the game. A much bigger topic of conversation was how Miami's shooting guard was attacking the rim like the Wade of yesteryear.
Barkley's criticism of Wade had been he was settling for jumpers and not driving to the hoop. Since Barkley usually works on Thursday nights, he wasn't around Wednesday for an updated critique.
"We all know and love Charles for who he is," Heat forward Shane Battier quipped.
The aggressive Wade went to the free-throw line 15 times, the most since he shot 16 Jan. 10, 2012 at Golden State. OK, he only made nine, but don't blame that on his knee.
In putting up his highest regular-season point total since getting 39 on March 25, 2011 against Philadelphia, Wade had 25 after intermission as the Heat fought back from a 15-point second-quarter deficit. After Wade clanged the first two free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer in the first minute of overtime, that seemed to fire him up even more.
Wade then made the third attempt. He added five more points in overtime, including a runner in the lane with 2:01 left that put the Heat up for good at 115-114.
"He made it look easy," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He was in attack mode. He showed great stamina. He played his best, most active ball at the end when guys started to get fatigued. He really took it to another gear on both ends of the court."
Wade played 40 minutes, his second-most in a game this season. OK, so the Heat (27-12) hadn't played since last Thursday at the Los Angeles Lakers. But Wade had 27 points in 38 minutes that night, and it was a back-to-back situation.
With the Raptors (15-27) really worried about Wade down the stretch, he turned into a passer. He hit guard Ray Allen for an open 3-pointer for his seventh assist with 59.3 seconds left in overtime. That put the Heat up 120-114 and sealed the outcome.
Perhaps Wade, who shot 13-of-19, should have been selected to take the last shot in regulation. Then again, it's hard to question going to a guy who had a triple-double.
With the score tied 109-109, James missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. In overtime, James, who scored just two points, was content to let Wade play a bigger role.
"The way he's playing as of late, the last few games has shown what he's capable of doing," James said of Wade. "He's one of the best players in the league. He was in an attack mode (Wednesday), got to the free-throw line and made a lot of plays offensively and defensively."
It must be said Wade last week had an 11-point game that included being benched the entire fourth quarter at Utah. Still, Wade has averaged 21.6 points in 24 games since the start of December, which is around when Barkley was ripping him.
"In certain games, I can't control how many attempts I get," Wade said. "I think for a while now I've been pretty good."
Wednesday's game might have been his most aggressive all season. Wade expects his rapidly healing knee will allow him to have more like it.
Knock on wood.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson