At least once during this series Dwyane Wade was going to have a game that made everyone think it was 2006.
Wade’s 28-point performance on Monday night was predictable, but he was aided by a perfect storm of missed Sixers’ shots and untimely turnovers as the Heat evened the series, 1-1, with a 113-103 victory on Monday.
“I saw moments, that’s what defines Dwyane Wade,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game. “We’ve seen that so much before over his career…In these compact minutes he can settle the group with his championship level experience.”
While lineup and coverage changes were made by both coaches — Ersan Ilyasova starting in place of Amir Johnson for the Sixers, the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside sliding over to cover Dario Saric, and double-teams chasing Ben Simmons — Wade took advantage of the attention the front court and Simmons were being paid.
In the first half Wade exploited everyone he could, pulling up in transition, pump-faking on JJ Redick, blowing past Markelle Fultz, and weaving around the baseline to feed his teammates or pop in for an easy bucket at the basket. He went into halftime with 21 points.
“I’ve been on the other end of a lot of his big games,” Redick said. “He is one of the all-time greats. As he showed tonight, he still has it.”
With 3:35 left in the third quarter, Wade checked back into the game. Less than a minute later, he tried his infamous pump fake twice on Robert Covington, but Covington didn’t bite, so Wade hit a turnaround fadeaway, giving the Heat a 16-point lead.
“I think Dwayne Wade offensively was just vintage Dwyane Wade,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
Though Covington was a victim to Wade’s fadeaway on that play, the three-time NBA champ was a victim to the Sixers’ defense through most of the second half.
With 7 minutes, 26 seconds left to play, Wade drove straight into the paint with only Dario Saric standing in his way, but Saric stood his ground, raised his hands straight up and Wade missed the layup after having to battle through Saric’s body.
As the Sixers were chipping away at the Miami lead, Simmons caught the ball on a fast-break, on his way to a dunk and Wade was forced to wrap up Simmons.
The Sixers continued to gain ground on the Heat, coming within two points, but Wade had a few more tricks up his sleeve.
“I think Dwyane’s steal changed the game,” Brown said. “If you were to pick one definitely moment, one definiing play, I think it was that.”
Recognizing a play he’d seen the Sixers run successfully earlier in the night, Wade knew he was going for a steal, and that steal led to a breakaway dunk to give the Heat a 100-96 lead, and stop the Sixers run.
On the next possession, Wade dished to James Johnson for an easy bucket off a high pick and roll. Wade added insult to injury when he hit a 22-foot jumper with 1:23 on the clock, putting the game just out of reach for the Sixers.
“I love this stage,” Wade said of the high pressure moments in the playoffs. “I play this game for these moments.”
Wade was bound to have at least one take-over game, but the Sixers were able to slow him down considerably in the second half. They’ll no doubt look to use a similar approach, keeping Wade from having his moments, as the series heads to Miami for Games 3 and 4.