The effort of Dwyane Wade this month to keep the Miami Heat in the playoff picture has been exceptional, and maybe setting a new level of excellence in the 108-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, delivering a brilliant fourth quarter and of course the game winning shot.
Yes, the Heat won by four points, but the tie breaker was a fadeaway jumper from Wade, finishing the game with 32 points and later suggesting that he hasn’t felt this good physically in over two years. Healthy, strong, fast and playing like a superstar again, Wade is averaging 27.5 points per game this month and has scored 25 points or more in seven consecutive games, something he hasn’t done since 2010.
This is what I love to do. This is the fun part of this game. I mean, obviously the last couple years I had to do what I had to do for that team. But now for this team I get to be a little bit back to my usual self, having the ball. I’m not going to do it right every time, but I like my chances most nights.
Wade wasn’t the only Miami Heat player performing at a very high level. Luol Deng had another very accurate night (9-of-13 from the field) to finish with 24 points. Goran Dragic scored 20 points, with the three combining for a season high of 76. Hassan Whiteside made scoring in the paint very difficult, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks that kept Robin Lopez scoreless; Chris Andersen helped as well.
Wade scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring with 7.3 points per game. The Heat fell behind as much as 11 points against the Blazers, but with their win over a Western team, something that hasn’t happened a lot for them when playing at home, they’re moving up to 7th place in the conference, giving them a one game lead over the Celtics and the Pacers at 8th and 9th.
The Blazers are struggling with Wesley Matthews. Not so much on offense; Arron Afflalo is an excellent shooter and scored 15 points on 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Damian Lillard helped out with 17 and LaMarcus Aldridge had a huge night scoring 34 points. But the defense which was in the top 5 in the NBA for most of the season isn’t the same without Matthews defending the wing, and Chris Kaman being their best option off the bench wasn’t the plan when they made the trade to bring Afflalo over.
Without a better effort on defense, the Blazers struggled against the excellent backcourt tandem of Dragic and Wade, combining to score 52 points and dish out 17 assists, plenty of them to each other. The Heat got very little from their bench as well (13 points from four players) but their starters are so hot at the moment, especially Wade, it’s all about not letting things fall apart when the subs are on the floor and not try to change the game.