The Miami Heat didn’t want to play Dwyane Wade 41 minutes in their 103-102, game 1 win over the Indiana Pacers, but they didn’t really have a choice. Despite his knee problems that have clearly been hurting his production in the postseason, the Heat aren’t going to pave their way through the playoffs with a second consecutive NBA title waiting at the end without Wade putting his injury in the backseat for now.

Wade scored 19 points, and is trying as hard as he can not to be affected by the pain. His shot selection is different, although he’s still the high-risk, high-reward player most of the time. He got blocked by Roy Hibbert for being that fearless perpetrator, although it did lead to a three-pointer by LeBron James in a very crucial moment of the game. But it’s clear from his production all through the postseason and the weird timings of his bench visits that it’s getting harder and harder to deal with this ongoing problem.

Dwyane Wade

I feel the same. Time doesn’t help me right now. It’s unfortunate I’ve had to deal with this thing for two months now. When I feel great, I’m going to attack. When I don’t, I know how to be a team player and give of myself for other guys. Even though my knee isn’t 100 percent, it ain’t gone.

Wade averaged 21.2 points per game during the regular season, his lowest since his rookie year. He had a rough opening to the year, averaging “only” 17.1 points during November, missing four games, and averaged 18 points in the few games he took part in during April. In the playoffs, it’s been a lot of ups & downs so far.

He started the Bucks series well, but scored only 4 points on an embarrassing 1-of-12 from the field in game 3, and didn’t even play in the fourth game. He wasn’t really felt during the Heat’s series with the Chicago Bulls, averaging only 12.6 points while playing 32.6 minutes in those five games. The Heat have gotten used to running their offense without him, while Wade spends more and more time taking a rest on the bench. The problem? That rest doesn’t it make it much easier for him.

The solution to his problem can only be found after the postseason is over. A surgery or something else, but he’ll find no relief in the playoffs, and he isn’t looking for it. Wade knows how badly the team needs him. He might not be the best player, but his presence on both ends of the floor (3 steals in game 1, 2 per game in the postseason) makes the Heat superior to anyone else in the league. Without him, and they might no longer be favorites to repeat as NBA champions. The only option is playing through the pain, even if it means a much more subdued Wade than usual. The Heat simply can’t afford for him not to play.

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